You can stretch your muscles

Proper stretching: this is how it works!

Even though stretching and warming up are often lumped together, they are two very different things. While warming up brings the body to operating temperature for an upcoming load, stretching puts the muscles under tension and / or activates them by rocking. Find out how to do it right here.

Do some stretching

Stretching should stretch muscles, tendons and ligaments, make them smoother and therefore more efficient. In other words: stretching exercises should help to give the body the suppleness that is necessary for good coordination and fun in sport.

There are several ways to stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The two most popular types of stretching are:

Static stretching: With this classic stretching, you hold the stretch for a longer period of time (around 15-30 seconds), usually with two or three repetitions per muscle group.

Dynamic stretching: With this form, the muscle is not constantly stretched, but alternately pulled in length and then loosened again. A rocking motion is typical of dynamic stretching.

Which variant is more suitable depends on the type of sport practiced. Whether stretching is useful before or after training also differs depending on the load and training goal.

Stretching: The Best Exercises

Legs, back, arms, buttocks - depending on the muscle group, there are different exercises to stretch your body. Pay particular attention to the muscles that you use more during training: runners mainly stretch their legs, weightlifters focus more on their backs.

You can find out which exercises you use to stretch effectively in the article Stretching exercises.

How often and how long to stretch?

How long you stretch depends on your time budget. You should, however, take your time for at least five minutes and make sure that the exercise is carried out exactly. You should hold (static) or do (dynamic) each exercise for 15 to 30 seconds.

Shake the muscles loosely for five seconds between exercises. Repeat each exercise once or twice. How many times a week you stretch will depend on what you're comfortable with. Some athletes stretch once a week, others after every workout.

Stretching in endurance sports and strength training

If you want to stretch before a strength or endurance unit, you should stretch dynamically. A meta-study suggests that slowly approaching an increasing range of motion has a positive effect on performance. In the 1980s, flexible stretching was frowned upon as harmful "straining gymnastics". Today, dynamic stretching is considered an effective means of activating muscles and increasing muscle tone before exercise.

According to studies, the static variant reduces muscle strength, speed and explosiveness, for example. Therefore, this stretching is not suitable for running and other endurance sports, where exactly these properties are important. It is also not recommended as an introduction to strength training. However, after exercising, static stretching can help improve or maintain mobility. In the long term, stretching is supposed to prevent the muscles from shortening.

Stretching before gymnastics, dancing, etc.

It is different with sports that require a high degree of flexibility such as gymnastics or dancing: Here static stretching can be useful even before training. Stretching improves joint mobility and prepares the body for the specific load.

Stretching - that's what it takes

Stretching is said to have a wide variety of positive effects, for example it

  • increases the blood circulation in the muscles,
  • improves mobility, including joints, tendons and ligaments,
  • accelerates regeneration,
  • increases general well-being, as a well-stretched body feels more balanced and lighter,
  • prepares the muscles for an upcoming load.

It all sounds wonderful. But: Many of these effects have not been scientifically proven. Neither the influence of stretching after exercise on regeneration (stretching for sore muscles) nor the effect of stretching before exercise as an injury prophylaxis has not been clearly proven.

After all, research suggests that when you stretch your muscles, tension decreases in the short term. This improves the ability to balance. In addition, the muscle tissue becomes smoother, which is reflected in greater mobility. Stretching can also alleviate various ailments:

Back pain: An American study has shown that stretching exercises (e.g. yoga or stretching) can reduce back pain and improve mobility.

Shortened muscles: In the case of tension and shortening, regular stretching can be useful from an expert's point of view, since problems such as neck or knee pain can be reduced by lengthening the muscle.

Muscular imbalances: According to experts, regular stretching can prevent bad posture, as stretching has a balancing effect on unevenly stressed or differently flexible muscle pairs (agonist, antagonist).

Stretching & calorie consumption

An hour of stretching burns between 100 and 180 calories. However, if you are not taking part in a yoga class, you will rarely come across this period of time. Stretching is therefore only conditionally suitable as a weight loss aid. But: Even a little stretching uses up more calories than sitting on the couch.

Who is stretching for?

To stay flexible, stretching regularly can be useful. Especially after injuries or if you are a little older, you should get the (sports) medical OK before stretching.

Stretching is unsuitable for hypermobile people with very unstable ligaments, joints, and tendons. You shouldn't stretch your muscles any more, but strengthen them through strength training.

In the case of injuries such as a ruptured muscle fiber, you should not stretch either, as it stimulates the blood flow and can increase the bleeding into the damaged tissue.

Stretching & Pregnancy

In principle, gentle stretching is allowed, even recommended, during pregnancy. In the form of pregnancy yoga, in which the stretching exercises are specially tailored to expectant mothers, it can alleviate symptoms such as tension, back problems or postural problems. Stretching, for example, stretches the leg and back muscles stressed by the extra weight, promotes blood circulation and thus helps to avoid varicose veins.

Special stretching exercises for pregnant women can be found in the stretching exercises article.

Stretching - the equipment

Special equipment is not required for stretching. Mostly the clothing that you wear for the respective sports unit anyway. It shouldn't restrict movement. When stretching after running or doing other sweaty sports, you may want to put on a dry shirt to avoid catching a cold. You can stretch in sports shoes or barefoot. If you do a lot of stretching exercises sitting or lying down, you can make stretching more comfortable with an exercise mat as a soft pad.

Stretching - Mistakes To Avoid

Don't be tempted to think of stretching as a byproduct of exercise and be careless about it. If you are stretching, you should do it mindfully and with concentration, otherwise the positive effect will turn into negative very quickly. Common stretching mistakes include:

Stretch cold

Stretching is not just warming up! The muscle should already be warm before you put it "under tension". Therefore, start the stretching program only after a short warm-up (walking for a few minutes or easy trot). Basic rule: Stretching should not cause pain, otherwise micro-tears can develop in the muscles. If these scar, it permanently reduces the muscle elasticity.

Stretch jerkily

When stretching, one should carefully build up the tension in the muscle. Jerky stretching can injure the muscle. If the tension subsides after a few seconds, you can gently stretch a little further.

Stretching after intense exercise

During intensive or very long units such as intervals, marathons or competitions, a lot of lactate accumulates in the muscles. Then you should avoid stretching, because static stretching in particular can increase muscular damage under these conditions.

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