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A beginners guide to stretching

When i was just starting my fitness journey i heard all about the benefits of stretching and mobility work. Playing football for 12 years you do quite a lot of stretching before matches so i thought i knew what i was doing. So i bought myself a little yoga mat even got myself a foam roller. Set it all up in my bedroom ready to be the second coming of elastigirl. After a few 10 minute sessions over a week i realised i had no clue what i was doing. I barely knew any stretches, unbalanced, didnt really feel it in my muscles. Stretching is seen as such a simple activity but unless you’re doing it properly you’re just wasting your time. In this blog i will cover why you should stretch, how you should stretch and then go into a bit more detail on the science behind stretching.

Since learning about stretching its always bugged me when people dont bother. Everyone talks about how much there legs hurt after there run or how they feel so stiff after leg day at the gym. But what they dont realise is how quickly the recovery process can speed up and make this fatigued feeling go away all through stretching. Similarly ive had athletes come to me say complaining that thee unlucky and have bad genetics leading to an injury. Then i ask them about their sretching / mobility routine and they kind of just look at me. Stretching is a step towards bulletproofing your body. For those non athletes reading this having to sit through my rant at athletes, its your turn now. Stretchings opens you up a new way of living. All these stereotypes of not being able to lean down to pick something up when your older, back issues, struggling to walk, waking up feeling stiff. Stretching can put you on a different path in life, you dont have to experience this lifestyle.

Here are some stretching tips everyone should know. First and in my opinion the most important thing to remember is that stretching isnt a warm up. You need to warm your body and muscles up through a pulse raiser before stretching. Stretching cold muscles is pointless, it will cause you pain and you wont even get close to your full capability. Next up we need to understand the feeling we actually get when we stretch. It can be hard to tell whether the pain were feeling is causing us damage or benefiting us. I always say to my clients that on a pain scale of one to ten we want to go no further than 3 ( 1 being no pain ). Now i dont say this with the intention of trying to get you to aim to be in pain. You need to understand that a good healthy beneficial stretch might not be the most comfrotable feeling. This leads me into my next point, dont think that this stretch / pain feeling is there because your a beginner. If you actually want to see benefits you have to remember that stretching is like any other exercise, you have to be progressively overloading. Alot of clients have asked how often they should stretch, i always reccomend consistency and thats it better to do more small sessions rather than one big session. Stretching is unlike other exercises in regards to recovery time. You can stretch daily or even multiple times a day. Stretches can be unilateral or bilateral, if we stretch one side / limb we need to try stretch the other side / limb at the same length for the same time to prevent inbalances.

Now lets talk about the technique of stretching to ensure were perfroming the exercises safely and that were actually getting something out of it. Form whilst stretching is so important, it can prevent injury and allow us to work to our maximum potential. All movments need to be slow, controlled and deliberate maintaining balance at all time. The first step is getting into our stretched position. The term we typically use is bouncing into stretches. This needs to be avoided at all times. This could lead to micro tears in your muscles and cause injury. Our muscles have a stretch reflex, if we go into a stretch too quickly our muscles will try to protect themselves by contracting. So we need to make sure we are gentle when going into stretches. This also allows more time to feel at what point we should hold the stretch. When we have found this position we want to hold it for around 30 seconds. Remember this isnt a challenge, dont force yourself. If you start to feel unhealthy pain gently come out of the stretch until you are at a point where you are pain free.

Everyone is different and will have different needs when it comes to stretching. If you are struggling on what stretches to do to help you and want access to my stretch library with 50+ stretches, form tips and information on every single stretch then check out the store. Or if having someone design a stretch program unique to you, review and give form advice whilst also providing nutrition, strength training, lifestyle and cardio advice then drop me a message or enquire about the online assistance plan.

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