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Muscle Flexibility

Consumer Conscious

From childhood, flexibility has been emphasized as an important part of each individuals health. However, it is the most overlooked part of a fitness and exercise program. Most people understand that flexibility and range of motion are important, but do not understand the actual influences stretching has on the body. Unlike weight training and cardiovascular activity, stretching does not burn significant calories, and is not usually perceived as a body shaping activity. Few realize that stretching before and after a workout adds strength to the body, aids in the prevention of injury, and dramatically increases recovery time.

Impact of Stretching

Many people do not realize the impact that periodic stretching has on the fitness level of their body, or its ability to perform. Stretching before weight training can actually improve your overall lift strength, as well as your endurance.

When your muscles are not stretched, and are cold, you have localized areas within the muscle where the muscle fibers are flexed together. These "knots" of muscle are already flexed, and often remain flexed regardless of the range of motion of your exercise.

Flexible person stretching

Because the muscle within these knots remain flexed, throughout the range of motion, the knot of muscle cannot participate in the lift. Subsequently, much less muscle and fewer motor units are used for each repetition. The result is less lift strength and slower progress.

Stretching Before a Workout

Stretching before a workout counteracts these knots by pulling the flexed muscle cells apart. This allows the cells to function at their full range of motion, and contribute to each lift. Stretching before a workout is paramount to realizing maximum strength gains and necessary to experience the greatest benefit during a workout.

Gains in strength are not the only benefit from routinely stretching during a workout. After your cardiovascular or strength training activity you should always stretch to allow your muscles to extend to their fullest range of motion. This provides two significant benefits. The first of which is that it prevents your range of motion from becoming limited. This prevents you from becoming muscle bound, and from having to work too hard in your daily activities. The second benefit is that stretching after a workout helps to remove the waste that has built up in your muscles during the workout. This speeds muscle recovery, and lessens the muscle soreness that is typical of any fitness program.

Obviously, stretching is a fundamental part of any fitness program. Although many recreational athletes do not actively participate in a flexibility program, the benefits of such a program are apparent. By stretching your muscles, you allow full range of motion, and condition your body for optimum performance.

Say Yes to Stretching!

Only by including stretching in your routine can you realize your maximum potential. Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility. If you're considering Yoga, perhaps you'd like to read Safety Tips for Yoga Beginners or the Less Flexible

Stretching e-Book

Check out the Stretching for Flexibility e-book. This is a great introduction to stretching for overall health and physical well-being.

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