Sunday, August 08, 2010

Stretching: Warming up versus Building Flexibility

I'm thrilled by the flexibility that I've gained through the martial arts. With that said, I'm still not sure that I understand it very well so I'm going to study it over the next few weeks to see what I can learn.  Got anything to contribute? Anybody ever read an informative article or book about it?

A starting point is that I've never fully understood the difference between stretching to warm up for a work out and stretching to increase my overall flexibility.  What stretches are appropriate for each? How long should a stretch be held for each? When should they be done?

Warming up - A workout typically starts with some light cardio such as jog-around, shadow boxing, few dozen jumping jacks, situps and pushups designed to warm the muscles. After the body is warmed, there's a set of stretches. I know that these should be light. How long should positions be held?  How much of them should you do?  Any other guidelines?

Increasing flexibility - Near the end of a workout, there is a different type of stretching. This is more intense and is intended both to help recovery time from the workout (to avoid getting stiff) and to increase flexibility. The positions should be held I believe for 20-30 seconds and should be done in two to three repetitions for each area. I'm not sure where I learned this or if it is gospel truth. Questions that I have are whether you should stretch the same muscle group every day or is this like weight lifting in that you should rotate muscle groups. 

PS - I wanted to grab an image to put on this post so I googled stretching. Wow, there's a lot of online writing on the topic.  I should have know that.
I often "cheat" on my warm-ups by getting into a jacuzzi. In less then five minutes, I get warmed up and I have a series of stretches that I've figured out that I can do in there without falling or drowning. Is this a good or bad idea?  Also, I sometimes go into it after workouts since I believe that it helps get rid of lactic acid. Any truth or opinions on this?


Alexandra said...

Wonderful to meet you, and inspiring. I agree, turning 50 makes you realize you have to start making some changes to see some changes. Time waits for no one. Wonderful to know you!!

BBat50 said...

I've now realized that I have three types of stretching.

Mornings stretches both so I can move around and to maintain general flexibility. This is similar to prebed stretches.

Preworkout stretches.

Post workout stretches. These can be the most intense.

ronsan60 said...

Have you asked your instructors these questions? I think it is a very good question that should be asked more often. I can only offer what I have gathered from experience. Now that have you brought this up I am going to do some research and blog on it. Give me about a month to gather the information.

Here is my take on stretching without any research and based only on my experience with my own flexibility. Stretching should be done s l o w l y! I find that trying to reach my max right away is counter productive. After a warm up of course I hold a stretch for about 30 seconds. Then I go a little further for another 30 seconds and repeat until I reach my max on each stretch. I have found this kind of long term stretching increases and maintains flexibility. It is also what Mr. Iannuzzo recomends for students of "vintage" like us. I try to get to class about 1/2 early to warm up and then stretch since the class warm ups are too time limited. I also stretch lightly in the morning for the same reasons you mentioned about morning stretches. I also include in my stretching a full body stretch. Arms, Neck, Chest, Back, no just the lower body.