Performing flexibility training daily is an integral part of most of our client’s exercise programs. While the other components of physical fitness, such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance training should allow for recovery days between programs, stretching daily is definitely possible and recommended for most clients.
Flexibility, is defined as range of motion about a joint and is joint specific. So the flexibility program would include stretches for all major muscles/joints of the body and performing a variety of stretches for all major muscles/joints of the body is just as important as performing a variety of muscular strength training exercises. The periodization principle applies to flexibility as well (i.e. periodically, changing the program to promote progression).
This week, follow a few suggestions for adding a stretching strap to your stretching/flexibility program as well as fundamental guidelines for performing stretching/flexibility training as well. As always, prior to beginning your exercise program, please consult your physician.
Suggestion #1 Stretching performed for the sole purpose of improving range of motion, should be static in nature, held for approximately 15-30 seconds to a point of tightness, never pain. Static stretches are held with no bouncing or ballistic action.
Suggestion #2 When stretching with a strap, the strap should be made of sturdy material which does not allow for the give and take of products such as resistive tubing. Resistive tubing is primarily designed for muscular strength training and not for stretching.
Suggestion #3 Stretching straps, such as Body Sport Yoga Straps are anti-slip, durable plastic buckles (this allows you to create a loop) and are made of 60/40 cotton poly blend, one and half inches wide and eight feet in length. These straps may be washed on delicate and hung out to dry and our experience is that, if well taken care of following the manufacturer’s recommendations, last for years.
Suggestion #4 Stretching straps, such as the one described above, are not meant for “pulling”, simply holding, keeping the strap taut. For example, when performing a supine hamstrings stretch, the foot is placed into the loop, the leg is placed in a perpendicular position to the floor with the sole of the foot facing the ceiling and the leg extended to a point of tightness in order to stretch the lumbar spine, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, calf and Achilles tendon. The elbows should be on the floor with the upper body relaxed. One must not pull on the strap forcing the extension of the leg at the knee joint. This could cause serious injury to the soft, connective tissue surrounding the hip and knee joint as well as potential injury to the very muscles you are attempting to stretch. *If it hurt’s, don’t do it!
Suggestion #5 Why stretch with a strap versus just using our hands/arms to hold body parts? Well, it is not that stretching without a strap cannot be safe and effective. Stretching with a strap; however, provides you with the ability to place the body part in an optimal stretched position, rather than an awkward position, addressing your individual needs. This then permits greater relaxation, breathing into the stretch and holding the stretch safely, to a point of tightness rather than “fighting” the stretch, not achieving a full range of motion.