Your stretching may not be as effective as you think!

As a practicing massage therapist I prescribe stretches to my clients as part of their homework assignment.

Because I work in a fitness centre environment I get to observe many members attempting to stretch. And the results can be very un-productive because they are either misinformed or imitating a third-party observation which was also ineffective.

My practice as a massage therapist allows me to encounter every form of muscle contracture and injury involving various joints and associated muscles associated with strengthening and strains.

The effect of muscle strengthening is that of shortening muscles and causing contractures (knots).

The purpose of stretching is to restore the muscle to its optimal length for normal daily activity of living.

The effect of not stretching effectively is that the muscles do not return to their normal length and there is a resultant deficiency in mobility and flexibility.

The length of the stretch is key in aiding its efficacy. 30 seconds is the ideal length of time to hold a stretch. Anything less than 15 seconds is useless and a waste of time and effort.

The effectiveness of any stretch resides in whether the muscle is being lengthened and preferably at both attachments or ends.

The tendon attaches to the bone and the muscle attaches between two tendons. The determination of whether the muscle is lengthening maximally is determined by performing the stretch along the plane in which the muscle normally shortens.

Example: the hamstring attaches to the butt and beneath the knee. So the most ideal hamstring stretch is one in which the knee is locked and the pelvis is rotated in a forward direction (anteriorly). This causes the most stretch in the hamstring. Raising the extended leg above the pelvis height also aids in lengthening the distance between attachments.

Example: the quadriceps muscle needs to be elongated by flexing the knee and distancing the ankle and foot behind the butt and pushing the front of the pelvis forward causing an increased distance between the quadriceps attachments which are the front of the hip and just below the kneecap.

Holding the heel against the butt limits the extent to which the quadriceps can be stretched.

So the two key factors which one must remember when stretching are these: duration: at least 20-30 seconds, secondly: lengthening the distance between the two muscle attachments. So you must know which muscle is targeted, what its action is, and where the muscles? attachments are located.
Stretching must always accompany every strengthening activity.
The greatest injury resulting from inadequate stretching is tendonitis at elbows, shoulders, and knees.

Great stretching!

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Author's Bio: 

Roger is a practicing massage therapist and associate pranic healer operating a clinic for the last 9 years, currrently in a fitness centre setting at Shapes Fitness Centre.