There are hardly any other things that have as many different opinions as stretching. Some bob, others hold, some think nothing of it (which is not wise). Some stretch before, others after training. Yogis swear by stretching, bending, and bending in all directions. And still others think they can do without stretching altogether – yes, that stretching actually reduces performance.
So far, so confusing. At least among runners, there seems to be a silent consensus: when they’re not jogging, stand on one leg and stretch the thighs of the other, bent leg. “While jogging, stretching is one of the things that many do without really knowing why,” says yoga teacher Hie Kim.
In this article, the yoga professional will help you shed more light on the mystery of a good stretching routine and unmask the most common mistakes. And in addition to stretching and running, our highly effective bodyweight workouts also get by without any equipment: With this plan you train yourself slim and fit in just 8 weeks.
What is stretching?
Stretching is about improving the mobility of the muscles. The definition of mobility is quite flexible. Some can easily bend over with their backs straight and grab their toes. Others believe that they feel stretching pain just by watching.
This is mainly due to the fact that we have different physical requirements. But the good news is: mobility can be trained. For example, through regular stretching.
Why is stretching important?
The only question is, why should you spend time doing this when you could instead work on your strength, endurance or the right technique for your favorite sport. The answer is simple: “Coordination and biomechanics!” Says yoga teacher Kim.
“By stretching regularly, you train your body, among other things, to break down inhibiting reflexes and thereby increase your range of motion.” Studies also show that regular stretching improves athletic performance, minimizes the risk of injuries and promotes mindfulness during exercise.
What exactly happens when you stretch?
“I’m not that flexible” – a popular excuse if you have difficulty doing a stretching exercise properly. This is actually just one more reason to stretch regularly. How flexible a joint is is determined by the shape of the bones This is why the shoulder joint, for example, is much more flexible than the hip joint.
Each joint is surrounded by ligaments and muscles that are designed to stabilize the joint as it moves. If a muscle (agonist) is tensed, the opponent (antagonist) performs a countermovement (stretching). Shortened muscles limit this mobility, relaxed ones increase it.
During stretching or yoga, the origin and insertion of the muscles are pulled apart so that the range of motion is increased. The limiting factor is usually the stiff muscles, not the joint. Anyone who feels a pull on the joint while stretching risks overstretching the ligaments, which would destabilize the joint.
What if I experience pain while stretching?
“Unfortunately, evolution has equipped our body with receptors that can make the stretching experience uncomfortable: Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles,” says yoga teacher Kim.
These send a signal to the spinal cord when they are stretched to protect you from injuries caused by overstretching and trigger the so-called stretch reflex in the event of sudden impacts. “That is why it is important to hold the position a little longer when stretching, even if it can be exhausting,” explains the expert. If you hold a stretch for at least 45 seconds, the muscle spindle sends fewer and fewer signals and the muscle relaxes.
In the long term, this effort will pay off, because the more often you make your muscles really long, the less they inhibit their muscular opponents in the tension.
What else does stretching bring?
Many muscle cells overlap when at rest. As you stretch, the overlap decreases and the muscle fibers become longer. With regular stretching, your body learns step by step to use the full range of motion. The result is smoother movements and more economical, more efficient training.
In addition, loosening up the muscles also has a mental component. As you slowly stretch yourself through your stretching routine, you will feel more inside your body and develop a better body awareness over time. This turns the strenuous work-out into a mindful work-in.
3 stretching mistakes that will ruin your workout
As sensible as it is, stretching can also be counterproductive. This is what happens when you stretch wrongly or under the wrong conditions. Here are the 3 most common stretching mistakes:
1. Stretching with misalignment
Any kind of movement carries some risk. And as with any other movement, correct execution can minimize the risk of stretching.
The rules of stretching are simple: if it hurts, you’ve gone too far. A slight “feel-good pain” is the absolute limit here. Wrong ambition can result in incorrect alignment with overstretched ligaments or dislocated joints. Be careful not to stretch a muscle beyond its natural extent.
2. Stretching at the wrong time
One of the biggest stretching mistakes is not about how to stretch, but when. Extensive static stretching before a training session can have a negative impact on your performance and your workout, because: “The short-term effect of static stretching is a reduced muscle tone.” The stretched muscles cannot be tensed so quickly and vigorously. It is therefore advisable to warm up before training dynamic stretching (see below).
3. The wrong stretch
Stretching is not always stretching. Some exercises are suitable for gently loosening and warming up the muscles. Others slowly make them long. To maximize the benefits of stretching, choosing the right type of stretch at the right time is critical.
What is static stretching?
Static stretching is what most people think of when they think of stretching. What happens in the yin yoga class when you hold a position for minutes, breathe deeply into the stretch and make the muscle really long.
These stretches are very relaxing and reduce muscle tension. Therefore, they should not be performed before training, but afterwards or as a separate mobility unit. Here Mady Morrison shows 3 gentle postures from Yin Yoga.
What is dynamic stretching?
While static stretching relaxes the muscles, dynamic stretching puts them in work mode. Dynamic stretching in a lively movement such as jumping, bouncing and rocking are the ideal warm-up before training. The focus is more on mobilizing the entire body and less on a single muscle. Here we show the best warm-up exercises for any workout.
What other stretching methods are there?
First a warning: Don’t come up with the idea of combining static and dynamic stretching with one another, i.e. rocking in a static stretch. This method from the 1980s has long since proven to be ineffective.
A more sensible variant of static stretching is what is known as “assisted stretching” or “active static stretching”. The muscle that is actually to be stretched is tensed. This stimulates the Golgi tendon organ and the muscle receives the signal to relax from the spinal cord. The muscle relaxes and the stretch is deepened.
You should do these stretches regularly
Dynamic stretches: These exercises prepare you for training
Are you still missing the right document? Fitness mat (€ 79.95) is ideal for stretching.
1. Leg swing loosens hips and thighs
While standing on one leg, swing the other leg dynamically back and forth. Stay upright with your upper body and swing your arms in opposite directions. Switch legs after 10 repetitions.
2. Cat-cow warms the back and neck
Get into the quadruped position. Your arms straight, your shoulders just above your wrists, your knees under your hips. Inhaling, tilt your pelvis forward, lower your stomach towards the floor and pull your shoulders back. Exhaling, you become rounded in your back, press your hands and knees into the floor and bring your chin towards your chest. Continuing movement fluently with breathing.
3. Turning to the side mobilizes the back and chest
In the quadruped position, bend your left arm and bring your fingers to your left ear. Now turn your upper body to the left, the left elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Come back to the starting position. Switch to the other side after about 10 repetitions.
Static stretches for length: In these postures you can stay longer and stretch your muscles slowly
1. Deep bend stretches the back of the thighs
When standing upright, raise your arms straight over your head. As you exhale, slowly bend your upper body forward and down. Let your head, shoulders, and neck sag. If you can, grab your feet.
2. Low lung stretches the hip flexors
In the dog looking down, take a step forward with your right leg and place your foot on the outside next to your right hand. Put your left knee on the floor and straighten your upper body. Raise your arms straight above your head and slowly lower yourself into the stretch in your hips. If you want more, bend your upper body forward and place your forearms on the floor. Would you like more lunges? Here we show how you can train yourself to crack butt with lunges.
3. Threading stretches shoulders and flanks and relaxes the back
When standing on four feet, you dip your right hand under your upper body to the left side until you can gently rest your left shoulder and temple on the ground. Now the left hand moves forward on the fingertips until the arm is fully extended. Keep your pelvis vertically above your knees. And then: take a break! This is how you regenerate properly.
Stretching helps. The biggest mistake you can make is to completely neglect stretching. If you use the right type of stretch at the right time, you will improve your training performance in the short term and stay more flexible in the long term.