In a previous post, I stated the benefits of stretching and a couple of different kinds of stretching. A helpful video was also included.
But do you know that like any part of your training, Stretching or Flexibility training should also follow the FITT principle?
Frequency – Ideally, stretching should be done everyday to maximize the benefits and improve overall flexibility. However, this does not always happen especially for busy individuals like you and me. At least include a sensible stretching routine after every workout that you do.
Intensity – A good stretch should feel good. Joints should never be stretched beyond their Range of Motion (ROM) that it becomes painful. The focus of the stretch should be to bring the joint just to a point of slight tension.
Time – As a standard for static stretching, holding a stretch for 30 seconds produces beneficial results. If you are doing a passive stretch (assisted by your personal trainer or someone else) this would be easy to do. You might need more motivation to hold the stretch for every joint for at least 30 seconds if you are stretching on your own. Stretching is usually the part of the workout that gets cut short when time is running out. A good workout design would ensure that this essential part of the training would not be left out.
Type – Mainly, you can do either Dynamic or Static stretching in your workouts. There are other kinds of ‘advanced’ stretches that you can do depending on your need, like the PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretch, AIS (Active Isometric Stretch), etc. Stretching can also be done using other equipment such as elastic bands, yoga straps, foam roller, and even your towel.
Here are some tips on how to stretch properly:
- Work within your limits. Do not try to overstretch your joints and muscles. If you are in a group exercise class such as yoga or pilates, don’t be intimidated by those who can touch their nose to their knees (it sometimes looks weird anyway). Remember that the stretch should feel good.
- Incorporate breathing to your stretching routine. This works well especially when you’re doing the static stretching as cool down. Do long breaths, exhaling upon relaxation and then slowly inch your way to a greater ROM.
- Do static stretching only after your muscles are warm. Muscles lengthen more easily when they are warmed up.
- Try other kinds of stretching activities such as Pilates, yoga, and breathing classes to make your stretching more fun and interesting.