What is stretching for?
“Stretch” comes from English and means “stretch“. These are sequential exercises that promote muscle lengthening and mobilization of the joints. Stretching is very beneficial to the muscle groups and to the whole connective tissue (tendons, fascias, etc.) found in the contractile structure. The connective tissue can be stretched and the maximum benefits of this stretch are obtained in the phase following physical exercise.
At the end of the workout we can really improve our joint mobility or the ability to make large movements within the physiological structure of the joints. The bone structure, the extensibility of ligaments, tendons and muscles affect the level of mobility). At the end of a cardio workout or a brisk walk or run, our internal temperature varies and the ease of the tissues to oxygenate and stretch. Stretching prevents trauma, injuries, contractures. Muscles and tendons become elastic and very often a good stretching is able to mitigate the sense of overall fatigue.
Types of stretching
There are many types of stretching combined and with different functions. The first type of elongation we describe is called ballistic stretching and activates the stretch reflex in the muscle (the muscle goes into reaction phase). It’s a fairly old stretching system, which requires you to get into the stretch position and then start bouncing. If performed in a distracted or approximate way, it risks tearing the muscle fibers or stressing them too much, creating a counterproductive springing.
Secondly we find it dynamic stretching which includes rebound movements performed fairly quickly; legs and arms are thrown in a controlled manner according to the principle whereby the agonist muscle, contracting rapidly, tends to stretch the antagonist muscle. It should be performed in a controlled way starting from the center, choosing the width and speed based on the degree of warming up and accumulated fatigue. Finally, it static stretching, where a position of elongation is assumed and it is maintained following everything with deep breathing. It is necessary to hold the position and get there gradually and slowly. This type of stretching recalls age-old disciplines such as yoga.
Then they exist other techniques recent very effective such as PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) or “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation”, CRAC (“Contract Relax Antagonist Contract” which in Italian means “contraction, relaxation and contraction of antagonist muscles”) or CRS which stands for “Contraction , Relaxation and Stretching ”or isometric contractions held for about 15 seconds followed by relaxation and again stretching. We propose exercises that belong to the Active Global Stretching (SGA), that is a postural re-education for the prevention and treatment of alterations in the tonic balance of the muscles according to the fundamentals of Global Postural Re-education, structured by Philippe E. Souchard. This type of stretching also favors the global autonomic balance, it does not only take care of the muscles but of the whole body conceived according to a real holistic vision of the system.
To enter into the perspective of this type of exercise, we quote a phrase from its inventor, Souchard, who defined the muscle chain in this way: “it is like a train of dancing people: if I increase the tension from one head because a person falls, they all fall the others.” This vision makes us understand how important it is to keep all the districts in harmony and lengthen them consistently.
Side chain stretch
From supine, the left leg is flexed and in the meantime, the right arm is stretched back towards the head, the right leg also remains long. You inhale and then exhale with your mouth you put your right foot into a hammer and your right hand as if you want to lengthen both the lower and upper limbs, so as to have a feeling of elongation on the entire right side. After exhaling with your mouth for at least 5 seconds, the exercise is repeated 3 or 5 times and then flex the right leg and extend the entire left side.
Frog on the ground
It stretches the anterior muscle chain and requires constant breathing to relax the tone of these muscles (psoas, diphragm, etc). From the supine position, the knees are brought towards the chest so that the lumbar arch decreases. Breathing in, bring your feet back down. We then do inhalation with the nose and exhalation with the mouth (at least 5 respirator cyclesi) to feel that the chest descends well in the phase of emptying the lungs. Then join the soles of the feet as in the frog position and continue to breathe trying to lower and raise the diaphragm in a natural way. The inner thigh remains active and the hips soften thanks to the effect of gravitational force.
Flexion-extension of the neck
When seated, legs spread shoulder width apart and feet that are well on the ground, look towards the navel by flexing the whole neck and then going into extension as if wanting to look towards the ceiling or the sky. Run for at least 10 times feeling that the range of flexion always increases a little, as does that of extension. You can add lateral movements of the head, moving it towards one and the other shoulders and adding a slight pressure of the corresponding hand to stretch all the muscles of the neck.
Tips for best stretching
We need to find a environment serene, calm and maybe put on a music you like. If you have sweated a lot during training you can resort to a quick rinse, without wasting too much time to avoid cooling down. Understand what stretching requires concentration as much as training and should not be performed with distraction or neglect.
If you feel that you are tired and your mind goes elsewhere, try to keep the focus on the breath. Do not hold the position beyond 30 seconds and if it comes to stretching exercises on the ground, avoid cold or wet ground, always prefer a mat or a towel. Be very careful not to get cold in the cervical area and use a small towel around your neck if you finish your workout late in the evening and it starts to get cool.