In any sporting activity, stretching is a fundamental aspect that brings many benefits to the body and health. Sometimes we do not spend enough time on it, or we start training without warming up, which can lead to multiple injuries or discomfort. Here we explain what stretching is and why it is a growing practice that more and more people are including in their training sessions
Stretching: improves flexibility and reduces muscle stiffness
What is stretching?
Stretching is a sporting practice that involves stretching muscles in order to improve flexibility and obtain a greater range of motion. Stretching has some similarities to yoga, with a wide variety of positions and static stretches that help you relax your muscles after an intense workout. Stretching adds exercises that involve controlled movements of all the joints in your body, so it is also ideal as part of a warm-up before high-intensity physical activity.
Stretching is not just for sportsmen and women or elite athletes, it is an essential activity for anyone looking to improve their health, fitness and sporting performance. With a 10-minute daily routine , which you can do both before and after your workout, you will start to notice all the benefits of stretching.
What are the benefits of stretching?
1. Improving flexibility
Flexibility refers to the ability of muscles and joints to move through their full range of motion. Stretching helps you to increase the length of your muscles, allowing for a greater range of motion. Good flexibility in muscles and joints is an essential aspect of both sporting exercise and everyday activities.
2. Reduces the risk of injury
Tight, stiff muscles are more prone to injury. Lack of flexibility can contribute to discomfort and tears in muscles and joints. Stretching contributes to improving flexibility, which is related to reducing the chance of injury during physical activity.
3. Posture correction
Lack of flexibility can lead to muscle imbalances in certain areas of the body. An exercise routine with stretching stretches can address these imbalances, relieving tension and allowing for a more even distribution of load among the muscles.
4. Relieves muscle stress
Stretching has both mental and physical benefits. Stretching helps you to release accumulated tension in your muscles and nervous system. The relaxing effects derived from this practice can also contribute to stress reduction and improve your general well-being.
5. Improves blood circulation
During stretching, blood flow to the muscles is increased, promoting the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to the blood and muscle fibres. This improved circulation is essential for physical performance and good muscle recovery.
At the beginning of the stretching session, it is important to be as relaxed as possible. Relax the muscles and breathe slowly to properly oxygenate the whole body, inhaling and exhaling air every 10 seconds. We can then proceed with the stretches or exercises, always from less to more difficult, so that the muscles and joints gradually become more flexible. It is recommended to hold for about 30 seconds when the final position is reached. At the end of each stretch, avoid jerky movements and calmly return to the starting position for the next exercise in your training routine. Here are some of the best known and most commonly performed stretching exercises.
1. Lotus posture
The lotus posture involves sitting cross-legged with the feet placed on opposite thighs. It is a classic posture of meditation and spirituality in the yoga tradition. Performing the lotus posture requires flexibility in the hips and knees, as well as continuous practice to adopt it comfortably.
2. Cobra pose
This posture is characterised by raising the upper body while resting the hands on the floor. The cobra pose helps you tone your back muscles and brings flexibility to your spine. Lying on your stomach creates pressure against the floor, which allows you to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
3. Boat posture
The boat pose focuses on strengthening the muscles of the abdomen and the core region of the body. This posture involves balance and strength and is beneficial for improving stability and toning abdominal muscles. Start the stretch sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you. Tilt your torso slightly backwards and lift your legs off the ground, keeping them straight. Your body should form an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the ground. Simultaneously, raise your arms forward, keeping them parallel to the ground. Extend your arms forward, keeping your shoulders relaxed and shoulder blades wide. Ideally, your body should form an inverted “V” with your torso and legs.
4. Candle posture
This posture has an advanced difficulty that involves lifting the legs and lower body while supporting the weight on the shoulders and upper back. Start on your back on the floor with your legs extended and your arms alongside your body. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your legs towards the ceiling, keeping your arms flat on the floor. Bring your weight to your shoulders, using your hands to support your back. Raise your legs vertically, keeping your body in a straight line. Stretch your legs upwards, keeping them together and your toes pointing towards the ceiling.
5. Bow posture
The bow pose is a yoga pose that involves lying face down and catching the ankles with the hands to arch the back. This posture is known to stretch and strengthen different parts of the body. Start on your stomach, bend your knees and bring your heels towards your buttocks. Hold your ankles with your hands, inhale and lift your head, chest and thighs off the floor. Upper body arches backwards. Try to raise your thighs as high off the ground as possible, while extending your legs backwards.
Equipment needed for stretching
Stretching does not require a lot of specialised equipment, but there are some basic elements that can be very useful for stretching.
A mat provides a soft, cushioned surface that cushions the body during practice, especially in postures where you are sitting, kneeling or lying on the floor. This improves comfort and avoids the discomfort of practising directly on a hard surface. The non-slip texture of the mats improves grip, allowing your hands and feet to stay in place during postures. This is essential to avoid slips and injuries.
The choice of comfortable and stretchy clothing facilitates movement during stretching exercises. Opt for clothing that does not restrict movement and allows for a wide range of stretching.
3. Yoga block
A yoga block is a very useful and versatile tool for both yoga and stretching. Yoga blocks offer additional support, especially in poses where you can’t reach the floor. They help to maintain stability and balance, allowing you to perform postures more comfortably and safely. You can use the blocks to adjust the height of your position in different postures, allowing for more precise alignment and improving the effectiveness of your practice.
Resistance bands are used in a variety of contexts, from strength training to rehabilitation. Resistance bands provide resistance during exercises, which helps to strengthen specific muscles. As you stretch an elastic band, the resistance increases, allowing you to work against a variable load. This is beneficial for muscle development and performance enhancement.