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How Stretching Strengthens Your Muscles

Experts agree that stretching is a crucial component of fitness and must form part of any exercise program. Through stretching, muscles elongate and widens the body’s range of motion. On top of that, research proves that stretching stimulates muscle growth.

Expert Input

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1993, researchers confirmed that stretching does enhance muscle growth. The research project focused on 26 adult quails whose wings were increasingly extended over a span of 38 days by weights that ran from 10{721a85b5f6e401e1a1d9129e4c0907e81d11a11c99a8b1c8b04c587685db515a} to 35{721a85b5f6e401e1a1d9129e4c0907e81d11a11c99a8b1c8b04c587685db515a} of their body weight. In the end, the researchers found that those birds had an increase of at least 318{721a85b5f6e401e1a1d9129e4c0907e81d11a11c99a8b1c8b04c587685db515a} in their muscle mass compared to when the experiment began, while the control group did not.

Types of Stretching

Not a lot of people are aware that not all stretching is the same. In ballistic stretching, stretched muscles work like a spring as the person bounces in and out of a stretch – totally NOT recommended. Active, passive, static and dynamic stretching can be described as a smooth stretching motion soothes the muscles and prevents fatigue. Isometric and PNF stretches, in which stretches are done as muscles are contracted, usually yield maximum results.

Properties

An isometric stretch is done by applying resistance to the body before flexing the muscles to neutralize such resistance while the body part remains still. An example of an isometric stretch is grabbing the ball of one’s foot with one hand and then trying to straighten one’s ankle by extending the calf muscle.

PNF stretches are performed by applying resistance on a stationary object as with isometric stretches, reducing the resistance to increase the extent of the stretch and then reintroducing the resistance. One example is lying on the ground supine and pulling one’s leg toward the chest as someone else’s shoulder is placed underneath the knee. Then the hamstring is flexed and force is exerted against the resistance coming from the partner.

Muscle Function

Stretching dissipates muscular tension, which can keep your muscles from growing after exertion. Additionally, it makes muscles more mechanically efficient, so that less energy will be needed as the person exerts and more repetitions may be performed while strength training. Stretching also improves the blood circulation in the muscles, meaning more efficient delivery of vital nutrients to the cells, less lactic acid accumulation, and thus,reduced muscle soreness and fatigue. Stretching also stimulates blood flow around your muscles, so that essential nutrients can be more effectively delivered to the cells, lactic acid build-up can be lessened, and muscle soreness and fatigue may be controlled.

Timeframe

A stretch should be sustained for a period of 7 to 15 seconds after getting to the maximum extent of the stretch. Taking 30 to 60 second-breaks is common in between stretches. To achieve the best results in muscle growth, stretching should be performed for about 5 to 20 minutes, both before and after a workout.

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