The Ultimate Guide to Professional Stretching
Are you an athlete looking for a competitive edge? Or a Baby Boomer looking forward to chasing down your grandkids a couple times a week? Maybe you’re stuck behind a desk nine hours a day and are just looking to feel better and relax.
When you think of stretching, you probably think of the one or two stand-by stretches you hold for a few seconds and release – just enough to feel good and then move on to the next.
The problem is, this isn’t very efficient. You probably don’t even feel that much of a difference after one of these short stretches, so you wonder why you should bother if you’re just wasting time that you won’t get back. Then you stop stretching all together.
But what happens next?
You get injured, or you keep feeling sore and tight in your back and neck while you sit at work. Maybe you can’t quite bend down to reach as easy as before, notice how your posture is worsening, or struggle with getting in and out of your car. Ultimately, it gets harder to do the things you want to do because it seems like you’re always in pain and discomfort.
Let’s be honest. You probably haven’t given much thought to the idea of stretching because you’ve never really seen the difference it can make. That’s why Jorden Gold developed a studio for practitioner assisted stretching, right here at Stretch Zone.
Feel the Difference with the Stretch Zone Method
The Stretch Zone Method is a new way to stretch that makes you actually feel the difference. By leveraging our proprietary strapping system, we’re able to properly stabilize the muscles that aren’t being stretched, allowing us to focus on the muscles we do want to stretch. This isolated stretching gives you a deeper, more efficient stretch, and allows you to overcome what is called the stretch reflex.
What is a Stretch Reflex?
The stretch reflex is how your muscle responds when it’s being used. This is an involuntary contraction, kind of like when the seatbelt in your car becomes taut if you hit the break suddenly. And, like your car, if you make a habit of stressing your breaks and grinding the gears, eventually your car isn’t going to stop and accelerate how (or when) you want it to.
Your stretch reflex works the same way. It’s a response to the amount of stress you put on your muscles, and actually functions as a protective mechanism for those muscles by stopping them from tearing. Your stretch reflex is also important because it directly impacts—and is impacted—by both the spinal cord and the nervous system.
When your muscle reacts to the stress you apply to it (your stretch reflex activated), it’s sending a signal to the spinal cord, which sends a response back to contract the muscle. This signal doesn’t have to go all the way to your brain, making it a quick and automatic response that you don’t actively think about. In other words, a reflex.
But what exactly activates your stretch reflex? The stress that does it is often external, like your dog pulling on their leash while on a walk, and subsequently pulling you down the street. Of course, this puts pressure on your arm and shoulder muscles, and can affect your spine and back muscles as well. However, a stressor can also be internal, like a muscle spasm or a shiver.
Stretch Reflex & Your Posture
It should come to no surprise that your posture can affect your stretch reflex. Just in case it does surprise you, here’s a tip to keep in mind: when you sit with your back hunched, when your shoulders or legs are tensed for prolonged periods of time, if you often walk or run leaning on one side or with your head leaned forward—all of this affects your muscles. Specifically, muscle tightness.
This is because your body is always influenced by the effects of gravity. So, when you’re not sitting or standing straight, relaxed, and centered, gravity is going to pull on those muscles in a way that can strain them over time.
The “muscle memories” you’re developing with these habits cause them to tighten or become overly sensitive when you try to move a certain way that puts pressure on them. It then becomes our job, with the Stretch Zone Method, to reeducate your stretch reflex and break it out of these habits and muscle memories. This is known as peripheral neuropathy treatment.
Reeducating the Stretch Reflex
Astonishingly, your muscles are capable of lengthening to 1.6 times the resting length instantly if the muscle could slide fully open. You can think of them like an extension ladder. What prevents that from happening is your stretch reflex firing. Most people’s stretch reflex is too hyper-sensitive. It prematurely fires, and it prevents them from doing the simplest of things.
“What we do here at Stretch Zone is we reeducate the stretch reflex to not be so hyper-sensitive, and to fire only to protect your body from overstretching, and not from doing the things that keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. Basically, to do your life better,” says Jorden, founder of Stretch Zone and the Stretch Zone Method.
Now that you understand the stretch reflex a little better, let’s get back to the idea of assisted stretching, and what that can do for your body, as well as your personal health and wellness.
Let Us Do the Work
All that this breakdown about the stretch reflex means is we’re trying to minimize your body’s fear of being stretched. By slowly reeducating your nervous system, a stretching trainer can help create more efficient movement and a better range of motion.
We do all the work; you get all the benefits.
Every stretch we do relies on this idea: reeducating your body’s fear of being stretched, therefore, unlocking more efficient and effective movement. But here’s a question you may already be thinking: How can you reeducate something that’s based on instinct?
Improving Your Active Range of Motion & Resting Muscle Tone
First of all, when our practitioners stretch you, we aren’t trying to make you more elastic or more flexible. Those are potential results, of course, but our main goal is to increase your active range of motion and work with your nervous system to reestablish a more ideal resting muscle tone.
But let’s explain this a bit further.
What is Your Active Range of Motion?
Your active range of motion is how much movement you can get out of a specific joint, in particular its flexibility and extension range. Since your muscles are positioned around your joints to protect them, ensuring the stability of your joint, having full range of motion helps prevent against tearing your muscles and straining your joints.
Most athletes know a lot about having full range of motion because it directly affects how well they can function and recover in such high-performance sports activities and training. Having a full range of motion also gives them better awareness of what their bodies can handle, as far as stress and activity. However, determining your active range of motion is not just important for athletes.
Your active range of motion affects your daily life, and similarly to your stretch reflex, it can potentially hinder you from accomplishing what you want to do throughout the day.
What Limits Active Range of Motion?
Joint Articulation. This means your muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons are all connected, allowing you to flex, extend, and rotate. Certain kinds of joints will move in different ways than others, like your knee, which extends, and your shoulders, which primarily rotate.
Body Mass. Your body mass accounts for how much extra muscle and fat are collected around your joints and bones. An excess of both can limit how much you can move, not to mention how quickly your body will respond to stressors.
Injury. One of the factors that can most limit your active range of motion is an injury—breaks, sprains, dislocations, and more. Discomfort, stiffness, and pain can all be debilitating in their own right, but it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. Assisted stretching with one of our trained practitioners can help you identify those pain points, and with our corrective techniques, repetitive stretching exercises can work out that tightness and alleviate the effects of an injury.
Disease. Like injuries, chronic medical conditions can also hamper your ability to move normally. Routine stretching with the help of a professional can help with discomfort and return strength to your muscles and joints.
Tissue Extensibility. This has to do with the connective tissue within and around your muscles. Extensibility is how stiff or elastic (or flexible) that tissue can be, and much stress they can handle before they tear.
Prolonged inactivity makes your muscles and surrounding tissue deteriorate, making them stiff and hyper-sensitive to abrupt movement. This is why we also focus on reeducating your resting muscle tone.
What is Your Resting Muscle Tone?
Your resting muscle tone just means how tense your muscles are in a resting state, kind of like a “default” mode or position. When they’re stretched or pulled suddenly, like if you trip or fall, for example, your muscles will have an instinctive response that comes from your resting muscle tone. If they were still to begin with, then straining or pulling a muscle with lasting effects is more likely to occur.
Having your muscles professionally stretched at a stretch studio on a routine basis works to relax your muscles while improving your active range of motion, and ultimately, the daily motor skills you use every day. Our practitioners work on enhancing these aspects together so that you can accomplish more, perform better, and live easier. But what exactly do we do to make this happen?
What We Do: The Stretch Zone Method
So now that we’ve established what our goals are, we can get into what the Stretch Zone Method actually entails. When Jorden first developed this method over twenty years ago, he wanted to provide a safe, comfortable place for people to get the professional assistance they need.
The Studio Setup
When you walk into a Stretch Zone studio, the first thing you’ll notice is cushioned stretching tables with blue straps. These special straps, along with wedges, are the tools that the stretch specialist uses so that they can systematically position, stabilize, and isolate your muscles in a very purposeful way—for you to get the best results possible.
And if the body doesn’t fear that it has to stabilize itself, and it feels comfortable, then it will allow for a fuller extension of those muscles. Through repetition, and by doing this over and over again, the body feels safe that it can perform this kind of movement on its own.
The Stretch Specialist
We’ve established that the stretch is about increasing your active range of motion, so you can move further without even feeling the stretch.
“You’ll literally just come in and lie down. The stretch practitioner does all the work, you get all the benefits. It’s that simple,” as Jorden says.
By using our unique strap system, you’ll feel comfortable and get the most out of your session, all while getting constant communication from the specialist working with you.
“Most of the time, people come in with complaints of hamstring tightness, hip tightness, back tightness, quad tightness, and also neck tension,” says stretch specialist, Brooke Strasser.
Practitioners encourage clients to communicate with them as much as they need to about how they’re feeling during that stretch, on a 3-5-7 intensity scale.
- 3: When you start feeling the stretch
- 5: A medium yet comfortable stretch
- 7: When you feel like you can’t stretch any further
But how does professional stretching actually benefit your health?
Do Your Life Better: A Healthier, Happier You
Life is about the daily consumption of experiences, interests, and relationships. It’s a routine that defines our weekdays and weekends. It begins with work and ends with play. We believe that if you can incorporate stretch into it, you will be more fulfilled today, tomorrow, and throughout your life.
Battling the Sitting Disease
Due to sedentary lifestyles, many of us suffer from what is called the “Sitting Disease.” This term just illustrates how people are sitting excessively for long periods of time. At their desk at work, on the couch at home, in restaurants and theaters. Unfortunately, our bodies recoil as a result, becoming tight and more difficult to move.
If you’ve ever wondered why your neck or lower back feels tight when you sit too long, this could be part of the reason why.
The Sitting Disease makes it take more effort to live normally and hinders what you can do in the long run. Our bodies don’t allow us to have the full active range of motion that we’re capable of doing.
Health Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle
There are many health risks associated with being too sedentary, both physically and mentally.
Physically, not being active or getting enough exercise means you are burning fewer calories than you are consuming. This can potentially result in weight gain, poorer blood circulation, hormonal imbalance, and even inflammation. Being inactive also has other adverse effects, such as:
- Muscle Deterioration
- Slower Metabolism
- Weaker Immune System
- Lack of Proper Minerals & Nutrients
- Loss of Bone Definition
Eventually, these changes in your body will have an impact on your general health over time. Not just symptoms like fatigue and insomnia, but they also increase your likelihood of developing larger systemic conditions:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
Having a sedentary lifestyle can affect your mental health as well, markedly in the areas of anxiety and depression. The good news is, even if you don’t have time to exercise every day, you can still reduce the amount of time you spend being inactive in several small, but no less important ways!
Take walks during your lunch break. Walk or bike to work if your commute allows for it and take a couple minutes every half hour to stand or walk around while you’re at your desk at work. Answer your calls while you walk outside or give yourself a project that requires you to stand or do something physical. There are so many ways to be active that you might not have thought about!
Enhance Your Physical & Athletic Performance
Dr. Donald Perry is an orthopedic surgeon. He visits Stretch Zone for professional stretching sessions on a regular basis because he knows well about the importance of being active, while also being safe about it.
“Most guys do not stretch before activity. If you don’t stretch properly, it’s been shown that you’re more prone to injury. The more you stretch beforehand, you can lessen that likelihood,” Dr. Perry says.
“I try to stretch on my own at least two or three times a week. But I try to get a professional stretch at least once or twice a week. It’s relaxing for me because that 30 minutes is time that I have to myself, and I can let them do all the hard work.”
We’ve found that professionally assisted stretching also enhances your athletic performance, as well as overall physical wellbeing. This is because anything that increases your motor function ultimately makes you a better athlete.
The Benefits of Professional Stretching for Athletes
Along with relieving stiffness and soreness due to under or overtaxed muscles and tension, the increased full range of motion you get from stretching will provide you with more responsive muscles.
The main athletic benefits of professional stretching include:
- Faster Reaction Times
- Reduced Recovery Times
- More Instinctual Movements
- Increased Flexibility
- Enhanced Sensory Awareness
- Enhanced Spatial Awareness
You’ll be able to more easily recognize when you’re pushing your body too hard, and your muscles will be less likely to tear with high-performance athletic activities.
When Should You Stretch?
When it comes to being active for health reasons, or being an athlete, you may wonder when exactly you should stretch. Some people make the mistake of only stretching after a workout, not stretching the right muscles before you go, or even overstretching.
One important tip is to do at least a quick warm up stretch before you begin your workout routine or play a sport. If you plan on going for a run, stretches like lunges and leg lifts can warm up the muscles and tendons in your thighs, calves, and back. While stretching your arms and back before weight training will warm them up before you start doing any heavy lifting.
Remember to cool down from a workout and implement after stretching into your routine so that you can minimize soreness and reduce the need for recovery.
Stretch. Work. Play. Repeat.
With 85 unique locations in 18 states across the United States, Stretch Zone is committed to improving lives and providing personalized care for our clients. We are the only nationally certified brand for professional stretching, and we are board approved by the National Certification Board for therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).
This means our high standards for professional service have the unique goal of improving your health. We’re not in the business of simply making you more flexible.
The Stretch Zone Method utilizes specialized, patented equipment paired with principles of neuromuscular behavior. This works to improve your range of motion, adjust your stretch reflex, and retrain your nervous system in order to help you accomplish more in your daily life—at work or at play.
Want to Learn More About Professional Stretching?
We want to make movement more efficient, more effortless, and of course, pain free. If you have more questions about what our professional stretching method can do for you, contact your nearest location today to set up your free 30-minute stretch with an experienced practitioner.
Our team here at Stretch Zone offers a variety of packages at reasonable prices, while still meeting your needs for professionally assisted stretching. We look forward to seeing you soon!