The Sunday News
Most people do not give stretching enough consideration. However, stretching reduces chances of injury. Age stiffens and shortens our tendons and ligaments. The result is limited range of motion, bad posture and painful movements. Stretching can reverse these effects of aging. Exercise can also shorten range of motion. When muscles are exercised, they become shortened and tight. Over a period of time, as the muscle gains strength , it stays in this tight and contracted form, reducing range of motion.
Cold muscles should never be stretched; always warm up the muscles before stretching. Warm muscles and connective tissues are more pliable than cold ones. Stretching reduces the potential for injury by warming up and lightening the muscles and connective tissue.
Stretching and strength increase together because when the muscle is lengthened it has longer stroke to full contraction, thereby generating more work. Stretching can reduce tension. Studies have shown less electrical activity within a Muscle after stretching.
Types of stretching: There are various types of stretching techniques. This text will only consider two. The first is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facililtation (PNF). This technique simply involves the application of resistance along with the stretch. This type of stretching can also be accomplished by using a wall or other object to apply light pressure or resistance to the muscle to be stretched.
The other type of stretching is a two-stage of the stretch. First stretch the muscle for about three seconds. Release the stretch, exhale and stretch again. The second stage of the stretch will allow further range of motion than the first. Hold the second stage of the stretch for 10-15 seconds.
Precautions: Never bounce during a stretch or perform any type of ballistic or forceful stretch. When a muscle is stretched forcefully or in a ballistic manner, a reflex action occurs within the muscles to protect the joint. The muscle is sent a signal by the Golgi tendon to contract quickly to protect against an over extension of the joint. Unfortunately, a stretch is still in progress. Tissues can tear based on the conflicting movements.
Pregnancy: General information
Continuing research shows that pregnant woman can benefit from safe exercise if they follow certain guidelines. A doctor’s checkup and authorisation is required and can help determine what exercises programme is right for both the mother as well as the baby. Safety is of paramount importance.
Aerobic Training: Warm up duration should last for 10 to 15 minutes while maintaining good posture, body alignment and a neutral spine position. Heart rate checks should start at five- minute intervals for the beginner to 10-minute intervals for the more experienced exerciser.
Intensity should be limited 60% of the maximum heart rate for beginners and to 75% for the experienced exerciser. Range of motion should be kept to shorter rather than full range movement followed by static stretches. Pay particular attention to areas such as the shoulders, neck , calves and hip flexors. Emphasise relaxation more than Extension and flexibility for lower back.
Overhead arm stretches assist in breathing and allow the entry of more oxygen into the lungs opening up the thoracic cavity. Be careful not to overstretch. Concentrate on slow, sustained stretching. Avoid abductor stretches as these place undue stress on the pelvic bone area. Target heart rates and rating of perceive exertion are reached more quickly than non-pregnant women. This is not the time to challenge the cardiovascular system, challenge the system before pregnancy to get into sharp for pregnancy. -Additional information from online sources.
The writer, Simon Gama, is a fitness trainer at Bodyworks gym in Bulawayo.