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Stretching and Flexiblity

Stretching and its effect on the muscles is probably one of the most controversial areas in strength training, conditioning and rehabilitation. There is some evidence that stretching may aid in the prevention of injuries, but many muscle physiologists and skeptics have altering views on the subject. What we do know about stretching, is that it can significantly improve flexibility in a given period of time.

One of the biggest myths about stretching is when to do it. Most people think they should stretch immediately prior to any sporting event or intense physical activity. However, this procedure can lead to decreased performance and even injury without proper blood circulation in the muscle. This mode of thought is the result of the most overlooked yet crucial aspect of most flexibility programs - the warm-up. A total warm-up program includes the following components:
-- It begins with a general warm-up period which may consist of 5 to 8 minutes of slow jogging or riding a stationary bicycle.
-- The next step is to begin mimicking (with minimal intensity) the sport of movement of the exercise to be performed. For example, if you are going to exercise the biceps using dumbells, simply do the same movement with your body weight (in this case, the arms) or with dumbells which are 50% lighter than your usual load. This maximizes circulation in the muscle group to be exercised.
-- Finally, stretch the muscle by performing the opposite action from the warm-up movement in the previous step. Each stretch should be held statically for a period of at least 5-15 seconds.
Flexibility is defined as the range of possible movement in a joint and its surrounding muscles; it may also be referred to as static flexibility. Dynamic flexibility refers to the resistance of a joint during movement. The ability to go through the full range of possible movement about a joint is called a range of motion (ROM). The structure of a joint typically determines the ROM. For example, the wrist, a joint of relatively low flexibility, has an ROM of 90 degrees flexion and 80 degrees extension. If an individual experiences a decrease in the ROM of a particular joint, stretching and flexiblity exercises can help restore the motion of the joint to its normal range.
Stretching is a beneficial part of any exercise program, but it is most effective when taught with good form and by a qualified professional in ths area of conditioning.



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