May 112010

When exercising, one needs to realize the importance of properly stretching before performing the exercises. Warming up holds numerous benefits for the exerciser – they raise your body’s overall heat, making you feel more prepared and better suited for the exercises, and they also severely reduce any risk of causing strains or tears, as it helps your muscles strengthen up before an exercise session. Also, let’s not forget that performing your exercises in a good, stretched condition ensures you peak performance as you’ll not only have a well-operating body, you’ll also have a better mindset and you’ll feel fresher.

Warming up should always start with the joints – rotate and twist them so that they start moving around without any noticeable halts or hitches. You need to free up your joints as much as possible before you proceed with the rest of the stretching. One of the most important points in a good stretch is a short period of heavy cardio exercising – for example, you can do 3-5 minutes of jogging, or cycling (if practical in your specific condition), as well as various other exercises such as the jump rope. This will help stimulate your blood circulation as best as possible.

You should try to put a good amount of attention on your spine, as it can be very susceptible to injury, but also a major point of strain when it comes to exercising. To ensure that your spine is stretched appropriately, lay down with your hands at about shoulder width, and begin pushing yourself upwards while exhaling slowly and contracting your buttock muscles. Your feet should not leave the ground at any point of the exercise!

If you have a bar handy, you can also do the Bar Twist, which involves placing the bar behind your shoulders while standing up, and then slowly twisting your body in both directions using the bar as support. The key to this exercise is to move slowly, but also firmly – don’t force your body into it and don’t push too hard, just take it easy until you feel your muscles properly stretching.

As some general tips for stretching, you should try to maintain at least 10-30 seconds of duration for each stretch – 30 is a bit high for the average person though, so try to keep yours somewhere in the middle of those two values. Also, each stretch should be repeated at least 2-3 times for maximum effect. To get the most of it, you also need to make sure that you’re stretching your muscles to a point where they’re actually under tension – however, there’s a very fine line between this and hurting yourself, so proceed very carefully – otherwise you risk actually hurting yourself in the process that should prevent it during your workout!

Of course, you should also target your stretch at whatever sport you’re practicing in particular. Footballers will want to put more pressure on the lower body, etc – make sure you’re giving enough attention to the muscle groups you’ll be using.

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