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Stretching Should Not be Missing In Action

Easy Moves That Will Keep you Injury-Free

Picture the typical health club commercial. Does it involve huge muscular guys lifting heavy weight and grunting, or perfectly shaped women using a nautilus machine and smiling? Probably. Now, did any of it involve someone stretching or warming up? Probably not.

Stretching and warming up are easily ignored, even in commercials for gyms. Yet they are vital to an effective and safe workout. By stretching and warming up, you drastically reduce the chance of an injury. Not only that, but they generally enhance your performance and help you get more results from the same workout.

The first thing to do before a workout is warm up - don't stretch first, your muscles are cold and vulnerable to pulls. Warming up loosens the muscles and gets them ready to be stretched. You can do this by walking, jogging, riding a bike or using an elliptical machine. Do this for about 5-10 minutes.

Next comes stretching. Thanks to your warm-up, your muscles are not tight and are more flexible. Try to hit every muscle group when stretching. The key to stretching is knowing how far to go; you want to feel a little burning, but if it starts to hurt, you have gone too far. Stretching is just supposed to get your muscles ready for a workout; you don't want to hurt them before it even starts.

Here is how to safely and effectively stretch.
  1. Inhale deeply.
  2. As you exhale, slowly and smoothly stretch to a point of moderate tension, before the warm "burn" turns painful. Don't bounce or jerk.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Breathe deeply and naturally during the stretch hold. Don't hold your breath. Stay relaxed.
  5. Slowly unstretch and relax for a few seconds.
  6. Repeat the same stretch two more times
  7. If possible, try to extend the hold time a few seconds and to stretch a little farther each time.
Then, when you are done working out, stretch again. This is very important. After a workout, muscles naturally contract. Stretching again prevents them from shrinking and allows them to rebuild and grow bigger and stronger, thus getting the full benefit from your efforts.

Stretching after exercise also relaxes your muscles, helps circulation to joints and tissues, and helps removal of unwanted waste products, thus reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. Add improved circulation and mental sharpness, and you have all the reason you need to make sure stretching comes not only before, but after, every workout.
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