Flexibility is easily overlooked in a workout setting, though it has numerous benefits. Good flexibility can literally be the difference between achieving your goals or falling short due to injury or pain. Each of the following areas explains how flexibility, when used on a regular basis, will improve your workout and quality of life.
1) Improves Posture
Stretching improves posture by getting the body to re-balance the muscles that are tight. The soft tissue structures of most people’s bodies get damaged due to poor habitual patterns and a sedentary lifestyle. Stretching can help realign soft tissue structures, helping you maintain good posture and protecting you from injury. When the body is properly stretched, not only does posture improve, but many people notice dramatic reductions in chronic pain, for example – lower back pain. Low back pain can be caused by tight muscles that help support and protect the back. So when the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, glute medius, etc. are properly stretched, stress is reduced on the lower back and this can alleviate or even eliminate pain.
2) Improved Performance and Decrease of Risk of Injury
Proper stretching techniques also increases physical performance. When muscles and joints become more flexible, they have the ability to move through a greater range of motion and with more power. In addition, with greater flexibility it takes less energy to achieve the full range of motion, so your movement becomes more efficient and effective. Stretching decreases resistance in tissue structures, making them more pliable and thus less susceptible to injury due to over extension or improper movement.
3) Eliminates Shortening of Musculature
The chronic shortening of muscles leads to many problems. When an individual performs resistance training, the muscles are contracted over and over again. Over time this will lead to loss of full range of motion, improper movement patterns, pain in the joints and loss of mobility. However, these problems can be alleviated simply by engaging in warm up and cool down stretches. In addition, on days off, stretching can take place of the workout. It can even be done when you have a few spare minutes or while watching television. Think of it this way- as you contract your muscles, they become shorter. As you stretch them, they become longer. So, it is very important to balance out your workouts with stretching to avoid shortened muscles.
4) Aids in reducing muscle stiffness and soreness, and improves blood flow
Stretching helps dispel the build up of lactic acid in the muscle that is being worked, thus aiding in eliminating the stiff sore muscles on the following day. It also helps to aid in blood flow to the tissue. Blood carries the necessary nutrients to repair tissue after a workout. Stretching increases tissue temperature which in turn increases circulation.
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