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Stretch Zone practitioner performing upper body stretch to male customer
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How Stretching Improves Recovery Time

by Lindsey McFadden

Stretch Zone practitioner performing upper body stretch to male customerWorking out, as important as it is, causes your muscles to tear. Tears can be repaired easily with a focused stretching session, which you can do at StretchZone. Doing so can significantly reduce recovery time. A great way to complete this is by signing up for assisted stretching, like many peak athletes.  

What Are the Benefits of Stretching? 

The benefits stretch as far as the eye can see. Not only can stretching improve posture, but it has many other positive effects on your muscles. Their health and stretching go hand in hand, and here are just a few ways of how stretching helps. 

Decreased Stiffness and Soreness 

If you have sore, stiff muscles, the best remedy is stretching, which is great for relieving aches and pains, especially morning stiffness caused by arthritis. Next time you feel knee discomfort, try a stretch such as the knee-to-chest, which carries benefits such as: 

  • Increased blood flow  
  • Improved oxygen levels 
  • Aids in the delivery of nutrients to muscles

These core characteristics of all stretches should be taken advantage of by everyone. There is no need for achy muscles when you have the power to stretch, especially with the help of assisted stretching sessions. These sessions can help people power through muscle fatigue and recovery. 

Helps Prevent Injury 

Stretching alone cannot prevent injury; however, it goes a long way toward lowering the likelihood. Many athletes worldwide who trust in the process play at the professional level. Here are more reasons why athletes such as Drew Brees seek assisted stretching sessions: 

  • Increased physical performance 
  • It makes muscles more durable 
  • Range of motion (ROM) boost 

Muscle and Joint Flexibility 

The key to this all is how stretching promotes stronger muscles and joint flexibility. How? Unlike what some believe, stretching can’t lengthen your muscles. If you don’t stretch, they begin to shrink and therefore tighten. As this happens, you lose flexibility while simultaneously increasing your risk of becoming hurt. Long story short, muscle strength improves as the length increases. 

Further Range of Motion 

A sedentary lifestyle leads to poor circulation of synovial fluid. Poor circulation leads to joint soreness and arthritis development. The best way to coat your joints with the fluid is by running them through the motions. Proper stretching achieves this while simultaneously preventing arthritis from forming.  

Arthritis 

The joints that aren’t coated are at the greatest risk. Other causes can include deep tissue trauma. Without full range of movement daily, fluid tends to build up around the knee, which could be why you experience pain in the first place. This, in combination with an unlubricated knee and you’ll be sure to experience discomfort.  

What is Synovial Fluid?  

You may be wondering about its importance, as well as precisely what it is. This substance naturally permeates the joint from synovial membranes; it is not produced by the joint itself. Due to the delivery method of the fluid, is why stretching is so important. The only way to be sure that synovial fluid lubricates your joints is by being stretched. 

Components   

The fluid consists primarily of plasma, with a smaller portion of hyaluronic acid mixed in as well. In addition to this, the compound also includes water and small nutrient molecules such as electrolytes or glucose. The acid provides high viscosity while the water adds more lubricating potential. 

What Happens to Muscles During Exercise? 

Sometimes the best way to improve something is by tearing it down and rebuilding it bigger. In a nutshell, this is what exercising does with muscles. As the muscles tear, they become able to absorb nutrients and cells. Doing so allows them to rebuild stronger after a workout, game, or another form of physical exertion. 

When the muscle tears, the body sounds off alarms which send cells to them. Upon arrival, the cells enter the torn muscles to begin damage control as well as healing. This necessitates stretching after exercising, which aids in both muscle repair and growth. 

What is Lactic Acid? 

As your body continues to exert itself, it produces more and more lactic acid (lactose). Have you ever noticed that your muscles ache after you use them? The pain and discomfort are the result of lactic acid entering your torn muscles. 

Anaerobic respiration is when glucose breaks down in an oxygen-less zone inside the body. Lack of oxygen within your body isn’t a life-threatening concern. However, it does cause lactic acid production, which leads to complications after. 

Under normal situations, your body will break down sugar through the process of glycolysis. This results in the production of pyruvate, which is our most common energy source. Since your heart rate isn’t racing, there are no stressors that require additional energy to be produced. 

Under high-stress situations for the muscles, such as sprinting, the usual method doesn’t supply enough energy. The heightened need for energy kickstarts an alternative process where pyruvate is converted into lactic acid before dispersion throughout the body. This provides a boost of energy akin to that of nitrous in a vehicle.  

Man and woman stretching before a run

Lactic Acid and Muscles Don’t Mix 

Contrary to popular belief, rigorous exercise alone doesn’t create lactic acid. Several things work hand in hand to create it. The following are all factors that lead to both the creation and amount of acid made: 

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of rest
  • Poor breathing 
  • Improper or lack of stretching 
  • Magnesium deficiency 
  • Need more citrus in your diet 

Dehydration has proven to be terrible for health on so many levels. Water is as essential to life, as is oxygen. Having enough water in your body during workouts gives your body what it needs to perform. It does so by promoting the following:  

  • Replenishes spent fluids 
  • Lowers lactic acid 
  • Advocates nutrient-based energy 
  • Relieves soreness and prevents cramps

Since oxygen deprivation causes lactic acid production, covering poor breathing would be imperative. Proper breathing in athletes has been a study topic for over three decades. In the first half of the 1990s, a breathtaking study took place to see how lactic acid and breathing are connected. 

The study sought to determine if pranayama, a breathing exercise, can affect lactic acid production at moderate to high-intensity levels. As to be expected, improved breathing led to much better physical performance. But how exactly does breathing differently help? 

Pranayama keeps oxygen around the muscles. Breathing correctly focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of each breath. In essence, pranayama techniques retrain your body to use less oxygen while exercising. Therefore, the body does not need to produce lactic acid since demands are minimal. 

The second part of the study proved that increased physical output and a lowered oxygen requirement are possible long term. In both groups, participants saw much higher levels of pyruvate than lactic in the blood. So yes, breathing contributes to muscle betterment in times of physical stress. 

Proper Stretching vs. Improper Stretching  

Stretching is key to healthy muscle development. However, if done incorrectly, it can be even more harmful than not stretching at all. Believe it or not, there is a time and a place for each stretch. Warm-up stretches are much different than cool-down ones. 

In addition, some movements are better suited for before a workout as opposed to after. Before a workout, your goal is to work your muscles up to a point where they can perform under stress. In other words, avoid static stretching before exercise.   

Proactive Recovery  

Prevention and recovery should be seen as two parts to a whole. Dynamic stretching before exercise loosens up muscles and warms up joints. Doing so will make sure you perform at your best and lower the risk of hyperextensions, pulled muscles, and other muscle damage. Another positive thing you can do to better your health is by practicing proper posture. 

Static Stretching  

Stretching in this manner involves remaining still while holding a pose for typically 20 seconds or longer. Think of it as a transition exertion and relaxing. This provides a cushion between the two extremes.  

Stretching and holding a tight muscle for such a duration puts considerable strain on it. As mentioned, relaxed muscles are tight and short – by no means pliable. Therefore, extending them to the full range will weaken your muscles and worsen your performance. 

An easy way to remember what stretches to do is by realizing that your before-workout stretch isn’t a workout. This means that it shouldn’t involve any movements that raise your heartbeat or make you sweat.  

How to Stretch After Exercise 

If you are by yourself during your workout, don’t be afraid to stretch, but exercise caution. By choosing to self-stretch, you open yourself up to potential injury. Overstretching muscles is the most common injury circling this activity.  

If you aren’t careful or thorough, you may as well not stretch. If you do, make sure you hit each muscle group. Don’t just do legs or arms. Your body is full of muscles that interconnect, so by stretching them all, you ensure that they all function at peak condition. 

In addition to this, it’s never a good idea to stretch before you’ve had your coffee. By doing so right away, you are extending your muscles at the stiffest part of their day. After resting for several hours, your muscles are stiff, and you could use some liquids. Wake up a little bit before you stretch it out.  

As always, you should always stretch after exercising too. Assisted stretching is always a great option, as you won’t risk muscle harm. Here are some examples of good techniques. 

Hamstring Stretch 

With hamstrings being a frequently injured muscle group, you should know how to stretch them out. Located behind your thighs, your hamstrings are the most likely muscle to become tight in your body. Having tight hamstrings can lead to many lower-body issues, such as anterior knee pain. 

Anterior knee pain, caused by tight hammies (hamstrings) or tight quads (quadriceps) can cause the joint and the kneecap (patella) to rub if not corrected. Over time, the pain will only get worse. 

So, to avoid that, all you need to do is stretch. Lift either leg and place it on a ledge, so it’s perpendicular to your body. Then all you do is push down until you feel a pull at the bottom of your thigh. Hold this for 20-30 seconds and repeat for the other leg. Accessible places to do this are your bed, a bench, or another flat object in the same height range. As always, getting help from a professional is preferred. 

Knee pain is also a significant concern and one that affects many people worldwide. There are many stretches you can do for your knees, but you can significantly benefit from those that are performed with an assisted stretching partner. Doing so ensures you don’t unintentionally damage the soft tissues in your knee.  

Stretch Zone practitioner doing leg stretch on female customer

Shoulder Stretch 

Shoulder stretches are an excellent way for you to prevent tight shoulders and necks after an exercise. To do this, reach across your body with your right arm, and with your left, you want to pull it towards you. You will feel this in both your shoulder, arm, and shoulder blades. 

How Does Assisted Stretching Help Recovery?

These are among the easier stretches you can do, but you should stretch with professionals often. If you have experienced an injury, setting routine assisted stretching sessions can go a long way toward recovery.  

Easing Back to Full ROM 

Our trained stretch practitioners are experts in easing you back to total health. If you’ve experienced a joint or muscle injury, you can easily reinjure it by rushing back to total activity. By utilizing assisted stretching, you won’t have to worry about this as we do all the work for you.   

Assisted stretching in conjunction with physical therapy (if needed) is a great way to get your body back to peak form. Again, you should stretch as much as possible, but just make sure if you do so on your own to not push your muscles past their limits.  

Focus On Recovery for Your Next Stretching Session 

Keep in mind that recovery time could be nonexistent by properly stretching before and after exercise. Recovery doesn’t have just to be reactionary. Be smart and stay proactive the next time you exercise! Don’t forget to check where your nearest Stretch Zone location is and contact us for an appointment. 

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