Understanding the Science of Muscle Stretching

Published: 16th January 2009
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Copyright (c) 2009 Nancy Rishworth

Do you find yourself feeling stiff and sore at the end of a long day at work? There's an easy way to eliminate these sore muscles - you simply need some exercises to increase flexibility.

Flexibility is something people overlook; we focus instead on aerobic or strength training. Increasing flexibility gives your body the ability to absorb impact better and recover more quickly from injuries. Not only will exercises to increase flexibility improve your aerobic and strength training, they will also release stress and tension from your muscles, allowing you to relax.

The best way to exercise to increase flexibility is to perform a series of simple muscle stretching activities. Muscle stretching allows you to slowly extend the length of the muscle. As these muscles lengthen, you increase your flexibility.

The Science of Increased Muscle Flexibility

When you perform exercises to increase flexibility you engage your muscles by stretching the muscle fiber called the sarcomere. The sarcomere is the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber. During muscles stretches, the sarcomere contracts and stretches which, in turn, allows the muscle fiber to elongate. Stretching also allows the surrounding muscle tissue and connective tissue to elongate.

As you stretch, collagen fibers in connective tissue align themselves against the force of tension (the muscle stretch). If you are suffering from an injury, it's this action that will help you recover faster as you gently stretch your muscles to help them rebuild and become stronger.

Going Past Your Stretching Point

Think about a favorite activity, such as golfing. We all have a maximum point of extension - the point that you can't twist any further, swing harder, etc. With exercises to increase flexibility you extend that point. You can swing further and harder - which results in the ball traveling further.

When you are reaching that maximum feeling of stretch, or feel that tension, you encounter the myotatic reflex. This reflex happens because your muscles experience a sudden change or tension - as a result of the stretching. This reflex is useful because it naturally prevents strains and tears. As you perform exercises to increase flexibility your muscles find a new limit - the myotatic reflex gradually changes for your body, and is set at a new point.

Exercises to increase flexibility help provide your body with an ability to resist muscle tearing. As your muscles become longer and more flexible, they can move farther before they encounter their natural stopping point.

With just a few simple muscle stretching activities, you can rebuild your muscles and take them to a new level of functionality. You'll feel better, have less tension, and be able to perform your favorite activities with more strength and energy.
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Nancy Rishworth, grew up dancing and became a qualified Aerobics and Fitness & Personal Trainer. She is also a qualified Naturopath having studied various healing modalities through healthy eating, herbal remedies, vitamins, massage & exercise. Her Flexibilty Plus Workout Program improves flexibility, strength and overall health. For nutritional info and other core strength and cardio exercise tips and guidelines go to www.FlexibilityPlus.com


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