*** During the current launch of 100-day workout we are continuing to modify our educational program, and since now each last day of the week you will dedicate to stretching. Why you need to do that, and why stretching and flexibility are so important for your health – those questions will be answered in today’s info-post *** We DON’T do the circuits today!!!
Appropriate and various physical activity allows solving a lot of problems with your support-motor apparatus. But the muscle strength is only the one side of the question. The other side is the work on the flexibility of your joints.
You may think the flexibility is quite simple thing as even children are flexible to some degree, or rather not simply flexible, but that flexible, so adults may only dream of such ability. From the other hand – this is very complicated and complex indicator of our muscles and joints condition and it’s very difficult to give an objective criteria of how flexible a person is. Moderate flexibility in all joints or some “gift”, for instance in “split”, what should be the measure of flexibility? Centimeters? Degrees?
In a naive way, what is a joint? (hope to be forgiven by doctors for the freedom in words that are used here and below). A joint is a movable connection of 2 or more bones, which are set in motion by the muscles attached to them. Bones in a joint can move in a single plane (e.g. like elbow joint) and are set in motion by a couple of opposing muscles – biceps and triceps. Bones can also move in several planes and can be set in motion by whole muscle groups, e.g. shoulder joint, where the pectorals, deltoids, trapezius, rotator cuff muscles etc. are responsible for rotation. However, our joints are deforming with age, affected by long-standing factors.
Flexibility is a maximum movement amplitude in a joint or a group of joints, no more, no less. Although, we are talking about a joints, when we want to improve our flexibility or to stretch, we mean work on our “beloved” muscles. It is these muscles that are responsible for bending and unbending in separate joints aren’t allow you to do split, fold like a penknife or do any other thing you dream of. To improve your flexibility you should do stretching exercises regularly.
Our muscles are capable of stretching to a very large degree (they can extend approximately by 60%). But our nervous system doesn’t allow us to do that, as if to say at certain point – ‘Do not relax any further! Be careful! You may get injured!’. Stretching implies training of your nervous system in terms of transmission of nerve impulses, or rather blocking of nerve impulses, which are responsible for the contracting of target muscles and due to that your muscles can relax (and extend) more and more. So, strength training learns our muscles to contract efficiently, while stretching learns our muscles to relax efficiently.
Combining of these two components in your training is a key to a healthy body.
Benefits of stretching
 Improvement of joint movement amplitude
In fact, many people can’t squat deep enough (so that hips are being lower the parallel to the ground and heels don’t lose contact with the floor) due to the ankle and hip joint that are not flexible enough. Reduced amplitude of the exercise, in turn, affects the efficiency.
 Improvement of athletic indicators
In general, with improvement of flexibility, athletic indicators are also improved, though stretching done with a poor technique or at the wrong time may reduce results due to the relaxing effect.
 Increasing of the physical condition level
At a certain very high level, sportsmen are often forced to sacrifice some physical quality to develop another one to a maximum. However, at the beginning stage we have exactly the opposite situation – by developing one physical quality you also assisting in development of other ones. In our case, the work on flexibility will improve your strength indicators due to CNS (central nervous system) training, which will send more precise signals to your muscles, which means the more effective use of their potential.
 Reducing of stress and tension
Here is a simple example. Sedentary life-style may result in following changes. Constantly contracted (but not tensed) hamstring (muscle of the rear surface of the thigh) is getting shorter with time. Meanwhile, lower back muscles, on the contrary, relax and are getting flabby. This is one of the reasons that are led to pain in a waist during the physical load, because it becomes too excessive. Solution of the problem, in this case, is hamstring stretching and strengthening the muscles of the core (e.g. by doing a different kinds of plank exercises).
Stretching doesn’t mean stretching of muscles as such, but their controlled relaxation.
 Posture alignment
Constant sitting opposite a display and working with a keyboard and mouse keep our shoulder joint in such position, where muscles rotating a shoulder inside and forward are always contracted and tensed, while muscles rotating a shoulder backwards are stretched. If somebody stays in such position at work during the years and do no physical exercises that force a shoulder joint to work in a backward direction, so he get the very slouch, which are caused due to the unbalanced work of adductor and abductor shoulder muscles. If we look at this issue from the side of flexibility, so this means that we’ve lost flexibility in our shoulders and changed the balance between the opposite muscles. In this case a solution is chest muscles stretching and horizontal pull exercises (e.g. Australian pull-ups). Work on stretching of shoulder joints and you will rejuvenate by several years.
 Reducing risk of injury
Since stretching can release the muscles overstrain, there will be less chronic fatigue accumulating inside of them and that will extend the period of training without injuries.
* Stretching allows to accelerate blood circulation, which improves muscular elasticity and gives you more stamina and strength.
 Accelerating of recovery process after workout
Delayed onset muscle soreness is a development of micro trauma in muscles and accumulation of metabolic toxins after training inside of them. Stretching allows to relax the muscles, which means improvement of blood circulation and faster excretion of these toxins from the muscles.
 Improvement of quality of life
Here all is very simple – it’s cool to be able to tie the laces, while standing, when you are 10, 40 or 80 years old. And if you remember how elderly people suffer from their flexibility problems, I hope you agree with me that stretching is serious!
Stretching exercises set videos
Here are a few videos about stretching that I like:
Stretching exercises set by Sergey Badyuk:
Stretching exercises set by Jamal Azhigirey:
Dynamic stretching by Kane Sumbat (wow, he is in his fifth decade!):
And a huge set of stretching exercises by Dmitriy Smirnov, Men's Health fitness editor - link.
I hope this post has provided you with all information needed