There are so many benefits of stretching that we can reap once we start doing so on a regular basis. Both mentally and physically that are literally life altering!
But what are the best stretching benefits? And what can they do for us in the short and long term?
Well below I jump into the best benefits as well as the different types of stretching that one can engage in!
Enjoy my friends.
The 5 Different Types Of Stretching
This is the style that most of us are most familiar with. It is when you hold a stretch for anywhere from 10-60 seconds. Essentially long enough for you to feel a release in tension in the muscle that we are stretching. This type of stretching can be enhanced by contracting the antagonist muscle group. For example if we are stretching our quadriceps, we can contract or hamstrings in order to get a better stretch in our quadriceps. It is seen as the safest way for the general population to reap the benefits of flexibility.
Active Isolated Stretching
There are so many benefits of stretching that one can reap when engaging in a consistent routine. It can bring both physical and mental benefits that can literally be life altering. Both in the short term and long term.
So what are these benefits and why is stretching so important?
Well below I go into the best stretching benefits there are for the human body. Starting with the types of stretches and then elaborating on all the benefits that you can get from stretching.
The Different Types of Stretching Styles
This style of stretching is similar to static stretching in which it doesn’t require motion like the types of stretching I elaborate on below. Isometric stretching is known as one of the quickest ways to help an individual develop both increased static and passive flexibility and is seen as being considerably more effective than both passive and active stretching. It is more known for being great for those who participate in martial arts. It’s main purpose is to develop extreme range of motion in an individuals body.
Isometric stretching is when tension is created in a muscle but still maintaining it’s length. An example of this is is stretching out your hamstring by putting your foot up on a chair and contracting your hamstring at the same time while digging your heel into the chair.
These are also referred to as range of motion (ROM) exercises and have excellent benefit for exercising and working out. It allows one to mobilize the body by practicing movements that are associated with the workload you are going to engage in that day. For example if you are going to be working out your legs that day, you would warm up with things like air squats, jump squats, leg kicks along with different of lunges.
These dynamic movements are done for the purpose of bringing a stretch to the muscle bu not holding it in the end position like you would with static stretching. The science behind dynamic stretching is that is sends signals to our brains to our muscle fibers that we are preparing them to engage in physically taxing work. It also allows us to gain more range of motion in the muscles we are going to work so we can complete our exercises in a more safe manner.
PNF stretching is seen as more of an advanced way of stretching and flexibility training. This is because it has to do with both stretching a muscle and contracting the muscle at the same time. It was created originally for rehabilitation. It has also been shown to increases muscular strength. The person who is doing PNF stretching contracts a muscle group for 5-6 seconds while their partner applies a good amount of resistance in order to inhibit movement.
Afterwards the controlled stretch is applied for 20 to 30 seconds. Proceeding this step is a controlled stretch that is done for 20 to 30 seconds. Afterwards the muscle group that was being stretched goes through 30 second recovery period. Which altogether this process is repeated in total 2-4 times.
This style of training is essentially combining passive stretching with isometric stretching.
Ballistic stretching is a style of stretching is regarded as a method of stretching for more seasoned athletes and those who are in peak physical shape. It consists of bouncing and rapid movements which are done repeatedly. They are done so in order to stretch the muscle beyond its normal range of motion. The main goal of ballistic stretching is to improve ones flexibility but should not be done by novice lifters and amateur athletes. The style if is more jerky and erratic.
This isn’t really stretching, but it allows you to release adhesions in the muscles in order to lengthen the muscle back to it’s original length. By doing this you maximize your stretch routines as the muscles are in a better position to be stretched.
The 21 Benefits Of Stretching
1.) Optimizes Performance
Stretching is so important because it helps with what is called the “length tension relationship”. Because of habits that we have in our lives, muscles shorten due to things like sitting too long. The hip flexors shorten, the quads become tight and the opposing muscle, the hamstring lengthens.
When this happens there is muscle imbalance that causes an actual tilt in pelvis tilting it forward. This puts stress on the lower back as it takes away your glute power, putting them at a disadvantageous position. They become weak. This is why 80 percent of the population will experience low back pain at some point in your life.
The whole kenetic chain becomes weak when this happens. Kenetic chain meaning that whole body and the way if functions. When joints are restricted, there is less range of motion around that joint. This causes a myriad of problems and refrains one from reaching their full athletic potential. Or just being safe in daily life movements. When one has optimal length tension relationships with the agonist, antagonists, synergist and stabilizer muscles in their body, proper movement occurs. One can be confident enough to exercise and live life without worrying about the risk of injury.
Stretching helps create better length tension relationships with muscles to where they are at their proper length and one isn’t to tight or to lengthened. We can move and lift things with power and force that would couldn’t when our muscles and joints are inhibited through lack of mobility. We start to move properly, which if we don’t correct our mobility with stretching, we will live a life where our body is constantly compromised. This can lead to a cumulative injury cycle which starts when we are not exercising and living in a manner that is optimal to how our body functions.
Optimal performance through a properly stretched body can help one do better in sports or even be the deciding factor in getting an edge on the competition and winning over athletes who are not properly stretched.
2.) Relieves Stress
Sharecare.com has a great article on how stretching decreases stress as it improves elasticity and mobility. This creates relaxed movement throughout our day along with less tension in our bodies. It also puts us in a meditative state to where we can rest the body and mind, reaching a sense of quiet in the mind by putting us in the moment during our routine.
Also the article references Dr. Oz who talks about how stress restricts blood flow in our body. This causes tension in our muscular system. When we stretch we stimulate receptors within our nervous systems which decrease production of stress hormones.
3.) Increase Blood Circulation
Like we touched upon slightly above, stretching increases blood flow. This sends allows us to eliminate toxins in our body and create more optimal bodily performance. It helps us better deliver oxygen and nutrients to our organs and muscles.
An article by Livestrong.com talks about the benefits of good blood flow talking about how it improves oxygen rich blood flow to extemities and promote cell growth and organ function through it’s increase. It can also better skin health along with fight off infections and bacteria in a more efficient way. It also allows our heart to pump at maximum capacity which lets us lower our resting heart rate. Better blood flow means better blood circulation to the brain as well. Allowing us to think better and be more equipped to handle the stress of daily life.
4.) Increases Muscular Pump
For all my fellow meatheads out there. Stretching increases blood flow to muscles and organs. This means that we can obtain a better pump in the gym. Not only is this great for our ego and making us feel more positive about ourselves, boosting our self esteem. Bodybuilding.com talks about the benefits of a muscular pump including:
Being vital to creating an anabolic environment that fosters new muscle growth
Feeds the blood system, which allows for transport of muscle building catalysts
So the pump, also known as exercise-induced hyperaemia, releases nitric oxide which facilitates the relaxation of smooth muscles which line the blood vessels. This expands the lumen of the actual blood vessel. This is the spot in the middle of the blood vessel where blood flows though.
The expansion of this area results in peak vasodilation in which things like testosterone, growth hormone and amino acides along with insulin-like growth factor are delivered to the muscles that you are working.
By increasing out ability to enjoy a good muscular pump through our dedicated stretching routines, we can put ourselves in a position to reap the benefits of getting a pump in the gym more so than one who doesn’t engage in a daily stretching routine.
5.) Better Posture
Due to bad posture things link low back pain, forward head posture and rolled over shoulders tend to happen in the general population. An article by mindbodygreen.com talks about how that a simple increase in our head moving forward just one inch increases pressure on our neck and upper back muscles by 10 pounds!
By engaging in a regular stretch routine, you reap the countless benefits of good posture which include:
Better breathing – You will be able to inhale with more power, drawing more air into your lungs. It allows us to open up our body and more naturally use our diaphragm which helps us engage in proper breathing instead of chest breathing.
Think better as your brain will be more oxygenated
Avoid health complications – You will relieve stress on your body that will keep you from things like slipped discs, chest pressure, jaw pain, back aches, neck aches and anterior pelvic tilt.
Creating better posture through stretching allows us take unneeded tension off of our bodies. It allows our body to function optimally with more ease.
6.) Better Confidence
When our body is properly stretched, our posture is better. Our shoulders are pulled back more and we walk taller and with more of a proud posture. Our self esteem increases because of this as a lot of how we feel about ourselves show up in the way we hold our bodies.
An article titled “Tall posture, high self-esteem” talks about how there was a study done in which researchers investigated whether a upright seated posture would have an affect on cardiovascular response to a psychological stress task compared to the participants who assumed a slumped seated posture.
The conclusion of the study showed that assuming a posture an the upright position helps people better maintain higher levels of self esteem along with reduce negative mood that is correlated with stress. It simply increases mood when compared to those who sit in a slouched and slumped way.
The article talks about how posture is also linked to being a diagnostic factor of depression. Researchers found that those who sit with closed postures are more prone to suffer from depression.
By creating a daily stretch routine, you will open up the body. By doing this, you will reap the benefits of higher self esteem and better mood because of it.
7.) Pain Management
If we have injuries or aches and pains, there may be no faster relief to these aches and pains than through stretching them out. Often times when we get injured, the muscles freak out and tighten up around the spot of the injury. It is more of a protection mechanism, but often times the muscles react to quick and end up getting stuck in that position. Stretching them out can allow them to relax and increase blood flow to the spot of injury or pain.
8.) Better Exercise Form
The better your muscles are stretched, the more mobility you can get around joints when moving them through single or multi-joint exercises. It also creates proper length in muscles to where they work synergistically enough to where when you exercise you aren’t reinforcing negative workout patterns and injuries that could already be present. As when we don’t stretch and continue to workout, it is harder to heal these injuries and movement cycles become more permanent.
Better form also means better aesthetics to where we are more proportionate when we build our body. Our bodies also move more efficiently and powerfully, helping us move more weight effectively. Hence building a better and more sculpted body.
9.) Help You Sleep Better
An article by elitedaily.com talks about how simply put doing stretches promotes relaxation. It is a well known fact that people come out of yoga and stretching classes feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. The article goes onto talk about how Nikos Apostlopoulos who is the director of the microstretching clinic in Vancouver how stretching around bedtime is a good thing to help you sleep better as it has a calming effect.
Which he teaches to a lot of his patients and administers the protocol for them to do before going to sleep. He believes that if you prepare your body for sleep though going through a series of gentle stretches, you are assisting your body in both recovery along with regeneration.
They also reference doctors notes in a paper titled The Science of Breathing in which accompany mindful stretching, promote deeper relaxation, alleviate stress and enhance organ function.
The best stretches to use before working out to prime muscles for optimal movement are dynamic stretches. A great article talks about how dynamic stretches increase range of motion along with flexibility by lengthening of soft tissues like muscles and ligaments. It has also been shown to promote fluid movement when one engages in physical activity. Along with decrease soreness and best yet, minimize the risk of injury. Some of he most common dynamic stretches are walking lunges, torso twists, leg swings, inch worms dynamic pigeons, leg crossovers, scorpions, frog walks and page turn overs.
These exercises help elevate our body temperature along with prepare our nervous system for the strenuous work to come. Instead of jumping in head first. It is done to prime muscle groups that you will work for the resistance training portion. So for example if you are working out legs, then you would do some dynamic stretching that would include walking lunges, knee grabs, inch worms, hip rotators and walking toe touches.
Increased Flexibility – It helps us release muscles back to their comfortable state after being constricted and contracted. Which when done long term will help our bodies become more flexible and prevent injuries.
Eliminates Lactic Acid – This will help you be less sore and recover quicker, allowing you to workout the same muscle groups faster.
Improve Blood Circulation – It helps our heart beat return back to normal and our body to cool down, bringing it back to our resting state before entering back into the world.
Releases Tightness From Working Out – This will prevent future injuries as you are stretching muscles that have been under trauma with resistance training. This muscles naturally tighten up under this stress and need to be lengthened back to their normal length after being tight.
12.) Relieves Tension Headaches
Engaging in a nice routine of neck stretches can help immensely with the relief of tension headaches and even jaw pain. Simply tucking your chin and doing a static stretch in that position, along with doing the same thing side to side can have a great impact on relieving tension above the shoulders. By holding each stretch for 30 seconds, you can relieve tension throughout the neck. Which after a while of engaging in these stretches, you may notice that your headaches disappear. Here is a video for good stretches for tension headaches.
13.) Better Stability
There was a study done to test whether stretching helped with stability. The study that was done involved 42 college students split with 21 males and 21 females along with 10 male surfers. They all performed tests on a stabilometer which is a device that measures how well one can stabilize their body.
The students performed tests on 2 separate days that followed 3 days of familiarization. The testing tracked the students under the condition of sitting for 30 minutes not partaking in any stretching. Along with 30 minutes of stretching activities. The stretching activities consisted of a myriad of both unassisted and assisted static stretching positions that dealt with the muscles around the knees, hips and ankle joints.
Compared to the study group the students that stretched for 30 minutes before hoping on the stabilometer showed an 11.4% better balance response. The researchers linked stretching to bettering fine muscle coordination.
This can be huge for the aging population as they are more prone to falls which can lead to injury and even death. The younger population can prime themselves to create good balance now and for their future. And the aging population can use stretching as a way to ensure their safety by bettering their ability to balance.
14.) Burns Calories
Livestrong talks about how engaging in a Hatha yoga class allows someone who weighs 155 pounds to burn 149 during a class that is 30 minutes in duration.
As far as dynamic stretching goes, the article talks about how one can burn anywhere between 135 and 200 calories per half hour allotment.
Also as you stretch more you will be able to utilize your muscle groups better. This means that you will workout more efficiently. You will naturally have more energy and perform exercises with better form. Allowing you to workout longer, hence burning more calories
15.) Increase Energy In The Morning (Benefits of Stretching In The Morning)
Nothing is worse than waking up to an alarm clock and feeling no desire to get out of those sheets! The first thing we usually do is reach for that cup of coffee or tea. But we can jack up our energy levels through stretching in the morning. A great article by Huffington Post titled “stretching first thing in the morning can increase energy levels” talks about how we can use stretching to get the wheels turning!
The article talks about how by lengthening muscles that become tight during sleep, we can lengthen tight muscles and realign our body as best as possible. This allows us to go about our day in a more energized way. Like I talked about above, it increases blood flow to our brain and muscular system, thus increasing our clarity in the morning.
16.) Help You Sleep Better (Benefits of Stretching At Night)
Stretching before you go to bed can prime your body for relaxation to sleep better. During the day our body becomes tight, and by releasing this tightness before you go to bed we can ensure a better nights sleep. We can also fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer as our bodies are relaxed and more ready to go to sleep.
Going from zero to one hundred with exercise can be tough on both the body and mind. Engaging in a good stretching routine before we workout can allow us to ease into our workouts and be better equip to jump in with the intensity we need to have a great workout.
18.) Eases Back Pain
Stretching can help us relieve pain in our bodies. But since lower back pain is such a huge issue in the world, I wanted to bring up how good stretching is for lower back pain. And bring some science into the equation. A team of researchers who were lead by Dr. Karen J. Sherman of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle created a clinical trial which enrolled 228 adults. Each one of the participants had lower back pain which lasted more than 3 months. Which constitutes as chronic pain.
The participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 different groups. Two of the groups partook in 12 weekly 75 minute classes in which they participated in either yoga or stretching classes which were led by licensed physical therapists. 92 individuals were in the yoga group and 91 people were in the stretching group.
The people who took the yoga classes were asked to do routines at home on days that classes were not held for a minimum of 20 minutes. The study group of 45 volunteers simply were given a self-care book which offered descriptions on what the causes are of back pain. The book also talked about exercises along with lifestyle changes that can help lessen back pain.
The outcome of the 3 month study showed those from the stretching and yoga group showed a reduction in the medication they had to take for lower back pain. Along with having better function of their bodies along with simply rating that their back pain was either better or a thing of the past.
I myself can testify for how powerful stretching is for lower back pain. I deadlift a lot. In the 400LB range for reps. But almost everyday after a deadlift session, I would wake up with horrible lower back pain.
After doing a full body stretching routine for a month, my lower back pain all but disappeared and I have had no pain at all deadlifting. Literally life changing.
If you are looking for good stretches to alleviate back pain, check out this awesome article:
Just like anything, the more you do it, the easier and more effective you become at it. The same thing can be said about stretching. The more you do it, the easier it is to release this tension along with allowing you to get deeper stretches. The better it feels as well. For myself, I know when I first started stretching, I absolutely hated it.
But the more I did it, the better it felt. Especially when the tension was released, it felt the tension relieve deeper and deeper and wider and wider in areas that I was stretching. The more I stretch, the more effective my stretches become.
20.) Muscle Growth
For all my fellow meatheads, stretching may help us pack on the gainz! Livestrong has an article about this talking about a study that had been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1993 which talked about the link between stretching and muscle growth.
The study was done with 26 quails which had their wings stretched over the course of 38 days with weights that ranged between anwhere from 10 to up to 35 percent of their total body weight. When the 38 days were complete, the birds we dissected, in which the results showed up to 318 percent increase in muscle mass compared to the non stretched wing.
Also like a talked about above, stretching elongates muscles enabling us to take them through a fuller and more complete range of motion. This allows for more effective movement which can translate to lifting heavier weights and doing so in a way that is conducive to how the muscle is meant to function. Thus increasing muscular development.
21.) Lowers Inflammation
Putting the fire out in our body is crucial to better overall health and well being. Inflammation in the body is the most crucial risk factors that plays a huge part in a myriad of the most well known diseases and health problems known to man.
A study done showed that stretching lessens carrageenan-induced inflammation along with having similar effects on both active and passive stretching. Experiments also show that by engaging in stretching, it reduces what is referred to as neutrophil migration within our bodily tissues. Neutrophils are the most abundant source of while blood cells in our bodies. This is a major aspect of our acute inflammatory responses in our bodies.
The article also concludes that stretching heightens tissue specialized pro resolving mediators (SPMs) which is a clear demonstration of the mechanical effect of stretching inflammation-regulation molecules that are in our connective tissues. Wikipedia refers to SPM’s as implications for orchestrating the resolution of inflammation.
22.) Help During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, anything that can help the process go more smooth will help not only the one that is pregnant but everyone around her! Stretching has many benefits regarding pregnancy, which a great article expands on talking about how it makes for a more flexible body which can become tight and achey from carrying around extra weight. Along with enhance the bodies range of motion which is crucial for the preparation of the rigors of childbirth.
Conclusion To The Stretching Benefits
At the end of the day, the benefits that stretching provides are just too good not to create your own stretch routine and follow it diligently. It will offer you both physical and mental benefits. Allow you to function optimally and with more vitality! I hope you enjoyed the article. Also share with me anything you have to add or how stretching has benefited your life! Lastly, I threw in some stretching quotes because I am obsessed with quotes! Talk soon.
“If you stretch correctly and regularly, you will find that every movement you make becomes easier.” – Bob Anderson
“I love Nautilus and stretching. The results are immediate and that gives me the motivation to continue.” – Donna Dixon
“Flexibility is crucial to my fitness. Incorporating a good warm-up and cool-down into every session decreases my chances of injury. I use both dynamic and static stretching in my training. I’ve stared doing a few yoga sessions which incorporates muscle strength and flexibility.” – Samantha Stosur
“I bend so I don’t break.”
“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”