Summing up, there are many ways in which stretching can benefit ordinary men and women of all ages. And when it comes to athletes, these advantages get an even greater value; that is rational, because, in most sports, the pressure added on the muscles and joints is bigger compared to that applied during the daily routine while the movements of the body are much more dynamic. Therefore, there is practically no probability of a sensible athlete, even an amateur one, to skip the necessary stretches post-exercise (which also help achieve faster work-out recovery and cut down muscle soreness) or at other moments of his / her day, because stretching seems to be the best means of coping with the bustle and the dangers of a demanding sport or activity.
Maybe the most widely known aspect of a proper stretching routine. As the joints get more elastic and the span of movement grows, you will be able to experience a much more convenient and fuss-free mobility in either typical or more demanding tasks of your daily life (i.e. lifting heavy loads, bending, flexing to reach a highly positioned object or running). As it is obvious, this aspect becomes of bigger importance for the elderly persons, whose muscles and joints have weakened significantly and their range of movement is extremely narrower than that of younger ones, so, having adopted a reliable stretching program will help them withstand the effect of time.
Boosted energy levels:
Thanks to the increased flow of blood, and the loosening of the muscles and tendons, stretching results in relieving muscle fatigue and thus sparking your vitality. Relief from pain and discomfort: Frequent stretching (mainly performed on lower back, quadriceps, hips and hamstrings) de-stresses the tightened muscles, thus improving alignment and body posture and ultimately leading to pain alleviation and increased comfort during your daily activities.
Improved blood circulation:
Performing regular stretching increases the blood flow to your muscles, resulting in their upgraded nourishment and the elimination of waste materials from the muscle tissue. Consequently, your muscle mass develops more rapidly and you can further lessen the chances of an injury, or the time needed for recovery after an unavoidable damage.
Fewer chances of being injured:
Firmly associated with the increased flexibility point, this aspect of stretching can be perhaps regarded as the most valuable for one’s all-around healthiness. Stretching prepares the body in a way that it can be adjusted to sharper and more rigid movements, thus helping it resist an unexpected injury provoked by a sudden overload that would otherwise exceed the regular limits of the joints or the tendons. Again, older people, who are much more prone to suffering from accidental injuries, can be massively benefited by stretching. Finally, having stayed on a regular stretching plan can drastically diminish the recovery time after an injury.
Completing a selected series of stretching for specific parts of your body promotes coordination and more focused movements while lessening the chances of suffering from an injury as a result of a fall. Relief from emotional tension: Being a type of exercise, stretching generally raises the level of endorphins, boosting your mental condition. But more particularly, performing stretches alleviates the tension caused by the contraction of the muscles, thus improving your mood.
Disarranged muscle fibers are straightened up:
After working out it’s pretty common that many muscle fibers are disarranged which is a serious post-exercise issue. Stretching is able to straigthen up fibers in the line of tension which is absolutely vital in order for faster post workout muscle recovery!
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Increase and Maintain Range of Motion
Enhance Physical and Athletic Skill
Relieve Stiffness and Soreness
Increase Muscle Relaxation
Decrease Chance of Injury
Increase Blood Flow
Increase Nutrient Supply to Muscles
A notable mechanism of the body is the stretch reflex (or myotatic reflex); that means that your body spine is able to detect abrupt and uncontrolled changes in the length of a muscle through the signals that muscle spindles (sensory receptors inside the muscle) send and resist the change in muscle length by causing the stretched muscle to contract, thus protecting from unwanted injuries. However, you can “mislead” that function by stretching regularly and progressively so as to force the muscle spindle to get used to a continuously increased length and ultimately achieve a larger range of motion. The steps of the Stretch Reflex can be seen on the image below:
The above presented become even more important for an athlete or a person who works out with weights as stretching can speed up the recovery process by not only lining up the twisted muscle tissue but also by boosting the blood flow (which increases cells nourishment, eradication of byproducts of cell metabolism etc)! Therefore, even if you are not convinced about the usefulness of stretching in the ordinary daily routine, there is really no excuse of not performing a bunch of stretches on the body part that has been worked out, before your it gets back to a relaxed state; finally we need to notice that the warm muscles and joints are the best guarantee that no injury or inappropriate tension will occur to muscle fibers.
Photo 3 clearly shows the parts of a sarcomere. Finally, it should be mentioned here that the all the parts of the muscle system are connected by tissues and dipped into lubricants, to accomplish their mission of moving the body each time the brain commands them to do so.
Photo 2 shows the structure of the Muscle Fiber.
Before we get to present the way stretching works, it is essential to provide some basic data on the function of the muscles. The muscles consist a part of the musculoskeletal system along with the tendons (by which actually muscles are attached to the bones), the ligaments and the bones; the muscles are the only component of the system that enables your whole body move, achieving than motion through contracting and, thusly, through generating tension. So, applying external force through stretching will, roughly speaking, make the whole muscle extend its range of motion and become more flexible. In fact, the crucial factor for achieving a greater range of motion is the elongation of the soft muscle tissue, plastic and elastic. The former refers to the permanent elongation of joints, ligaments and tendons because it remains even after the stretch is withdrawned, while the latter has to do with the temporary lengthening of the muscle tissue, since it rebounds when the stretch is over, and results in extensibility, that is the ability to stretch muscles. In accordance to this, it has been showed that the greatest amount of resistance to stretching comes from the connective tissue framework that is inside and around the muscle and not from the muscle itself.
In addition, the nature of the muscles is a little more complex, as muscles are not something unified; they practically consist of smaller strands of tissue, the fascicles, which in a lower level are composed by muscle fibers (photo 1), and these in turn are also comprised of even more compact parts (the myofibrils). Myofibrils also are comprised of smaller units, the myofilaments. Myofilaments are divided into two types, thick (comprised of myosin) and thin (comprised of actin)! These structures are composed of repeating subunits called sarcomeres, while the latter contain lengthy and fibrous proteins that are overlapped each time the muscle contracts and relaxes.
What Exactly Happens When a Muscle Stretch Is Performed? When a muscle is contracted, the thick filaments start pulling the thin ones to the center of the sarcomeres, which is actually the basic unit of contraction. An overlap between the thick and thin myofilaments is initiated, becoming bigger as the stretch is developing; when the sarcomeres stretch, the overlap area diminishes and the muscle fibers elongate. When every sarcomere is completely extended, the muscle fibers have reached the largest degree of their resting length as well, so extra tension is all directed on the adjoining connective tissue. Maximizing the tension forces the collagen fibers in the connective tissue to be lined up with the tension. At the same moment the disarranged muscle fibers straighten up in the line of the tension, and that is absolutely vital for your tissue’s restoration (especially after a strenuous work-out).
At this point, however, we should not fail to mention that there have been some arguments against the helpfulness of stretches, mostly in the form of researches that ended up in mixed results in terms of their productivity; yet, the biggest part of the health and fitness care community widely advocates stretching as an essential part of fitness and well-being. So, down the page are the most important of the stretching benefits.
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