Stretches are one of the most effective ways to improve your flexibility. They work best when done with proper technique and intensity. However, they can be dangerous if not used properly or performed incorrectly. The main problem with them is that it’s very easy to injure yourself during a stretching routine. If you’re like me then you’ve probably injured yourself doing some form of stretching at least once in your life!
Loaded Stretching Works for You?
The following article will explain how loading stretches work for you. I’ll go into detail about what they do, why they’re useful, and where to use them. Then I’ll give specific advice on how to perform each one so that you don’t hurt yourself while stretching!
What Are Loaded Stretching Exercises?
There are two types of exercises: static and dynamic. Static stretching involves holding a position without moving. Dynamic stretching involves moving through a range of motion. For example, you might hold a stretched position for 10 seconds, move through the full range of motion for 10 seconds, and then hold that same stretched position for another ten seconds before repeating the cycle three times. That would be one complete set of that particular routine.
Loaded stretching exercises fall into the static stretching category. That means you’ll be holding a particular position for anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes!
Many people shy away from loading stretches because of this. They think that it will take too much time away from their workouts if they have to hold each position for such a long time. But this isn’t true. All you have to do is pick a position you want to work on, plug it into your routine, and boom! You now have a whole new stretching routine that will take no longer to complete than your current ones do.
Why Use Them?
You might be wondering why I’m such a big fan of loaded stretches and why I think that everyone should use them. Well, there are several reasons. The first, and probably most important, is injury prevention. Many people ignore this aspect of fitness. After all, it’s much more fun to talk about how much you can lift or how fast you run than it is to speak about not getting hurt! And I understand that. However, physical fitness is only half the battle.
If you get hurt, then what’s the point of being strong or fast?
The best way to prevent injury is to make sure your body can handle the regular abuse you put it through. And that starts with flexibility. Our goal with loaded stretches is to increase your range of motion. That means we focus on all of the areas in your body which are stiff and inflexible.
Isolated, focused flexibility work has been proven to increase your strength by reducing the strain on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. That means you can lift more weight and perform more reps because you’re not using as much energy to fight the tightness in your muscles!
In addition to this, flexibility work increases blood flow to your muscles. This helps them recover faster and may even reduce your chances of getting hurt while exercising.
It’s also great for relieving muscular soreness after a hard workout or competition.
Another important aspect of flexibility work is that it promotes good posture. When you’re stretching your muscles, you should be conscious of the alignment of your bones.
If you don’t stretch properly, you may find yourself bending your spine or twisting your hips in an improper position. This can cause back pain and put unnecessary wear and tear on your body. By focusing on good posture, you’ll be able to stretch more effectively and with better results.
How Do I Use Them?
It’s very easy to plug loaded stretches into your routine. Simply find a position that you’d like to stretch. I suggest plugging them into the positions that are in your current routine. For example, if you’re currently sitting on the floor stretching your quads, try adding in some loaded stretches for your hamstrings and glutes while you’re in that position. This will save you time since you won’t have to move from one area of your house to the other.
To perform the stretch, contract the opposing muscle group for a one or two count, then release and go into the stretch. For example, if you are stretching your hip flexors, you would contract your quadriceps and then slowly lower into the stretch.
Hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds. Remember to breathe throughout the entire process! And don’t rush into things. Start off slow and make sure you feel comfortable with this process before adding anything else into the mix.
Remember to always warm up properly before engaging in any kind of strenuous activity. Don’t just jump right into the stretches, especially if you’ve been sitting for a long period of time!
Do some light jogging in place or some jumping jacks first. Also, make sure you’re warmed up before you start stretching.
Why Is It Better?
Loaded stretches are more effective than traditional static stretches for several reasons.
First, they’re more fun. There’s nothing worse than spending ten to twenty minutes on the floor stretching your muscles when you could be doing something else you enjoy.
In addition, the time you’re saving with your routine will give you more free time! Remember, it all comes back to the goal of living a fulfilling and enriching life.
Second, they increase your range of motion and flexibility. Muscles adapt quickly to stress.
If you perform a particular exercise or stretch on a regular basis, your muscles will quickly improve and you’ll soon hit a plateau. However, if you add a new element of stress to the equation your muscles will be forced to improve and you’ll soon reap the benefits. Loads are just another form of stress that can be added into your flexibility routine in order to break through that plateau!
Finally, they’re easier to incorporate into your daily life. Many people have full-time jobs that require them to sit at a desk for eight hours a day or more.
This can make it very difficult to squeeze in a full flexibility routine. But with loaded stretches, you can do them at your desk in between answering phone calls or taking lunch. You can also do them right before bed, since all you have to do is sit on the floor, lean back, and go through the routine.
When Should I Use Them?
Since loaded stretches are ideal for increasing your flexibility, they can be incorporated into your routine at any time. If you’re looking to increase your flexibility in a certain area, simply add the routine into your daily life. For example, if you’re an athlete you may want to focus on your hamstrings and hips. In this case, you would simply incorporate the routine into your daily life. Do the stretches before or after practice or before going to bed at night. Remember, they take very little time and can produce great results!
Remember to only add one new element into your routine at a time so you’ll know exactly what produced any positive or negative results.
What Should I Expect?
In most cases, you should expect to feel a burn or slight soreness within the muscles that you’re targeting. This usually means the tissues are becoming stronger and more flexible! You may also experience changes in flexibility outside of the area you’ve been targeting. This is great because it implies that you’re improving your entire flexibility level! However, this phenomenon is rare and may not occur at all. Don’t be discouraged!
Two of the biggest benefits of loaded stretches are their ability to alleviate back pain and allow you to improve upon your flexibility. Most people who suffer from back pain do so because their hamstrings and hip flexors tighten up, thereby placing more stress on the lower back.
By performing the loaded stretches regularly, you can effectively lengthen these muscles and alleviate much of the pain in the lower back region.
In addition, several of the stretches also improve your hip flexibility. When your hips are flexible, you’ll improve your ability to perform everyday activities and athletics.
In fact, many martial artists swear by these techniques in order to increase both flexibility and the strength of the hip region, which are both essential for performing high kicks.
How Long Does It Take?
It only takes about 12 minutes twice per day to incorporate loaded stretches into your routine. This is much shorter than the half hour that’s generally recommended for traditional flexibility routines. However, it should be noted that you will experience slight soreness in the muscle groups that you’re targeting and these stretches can be addictive, meaning you may wish to perform them more often. Remember, never do any routine that causes pain, only stretch to the point of mild discomfort.
What Equipment Do I Need?
The only piece of equipment that you’ll require is a stick or something similar that can help you deepen the stretch. Some people use a broom stick or a yardstick, but if you happen to have some Yoga Blocks lying around, these work great and are especially designed for this purpose. You can even tape two or three together to make them taller if you need to target deeper muscles.
What Are The Rules?
Rule #1 Always Warm Up First
It is absolutely essential to warm up your muscles before performing these or any other type of exercise routine. A good general rule is to start off with five minutes of light jogging followed by some basic movements like this one.
Rule #2 Don’t Bend Forward In Pain
If you feel like a particular stretch is uncomfortable, don’t force it. You can damage your muscles and tendons if you pull too hard or too far.
Instead, find a position where you feel a comfortable stretch then hold that for the designated time. As your flexibility increases, so will your ability to bend further.
Rule #3 Listen To Your Body
Some days you’ll be really limber and other days you won’t be. It’s important to listen to your body in order to figure out exactly how far you can stretch on any particular day.
This is true for all stretching techniques and holds true to this day.
Rule #4 Stretch Every Day
In order to see the best results, you should stretch every single day. The best time to do this is directly after you exercise, since your muscles will already be warm.
Be sure to also warm down after your workout by either walking or jogging slowly for five minutes followed by some light stretching exercises.
Following these four simple rules, you’ll give yourself a great base of flexibility that could easily be built upon with Yoga or Tai Chi routines. If you’re a martial artist, your kicks will travel higher and hit harder.
If you’re an athlete or someone who just wants to keep their body in shape, you’ll avoid many of the aches and pains that come with the aging process.
How Can I Incorporate Loaded Stretching Into My Exercises?
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Loaded Stretching is and how it works, let’s go over some routines you can try. You should always start off with a five minute warm up routine before performing the following routines. Remember to warm down and stretch afterwards as well.
Targeted Stretches: Calves, Quads, Hams, and Groin
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds then move on to the next one. Take a one minute break and go back to #1 and repeat entire routine.
You should always do this routine after your jog because it helps with muscle recovery.
Targeted Stretches: Neck, Chest, Back, and Shoulder
Hold each stretch for 45 seconds then move onto the next one. Remember to take a break between each set to let the blood flow back into the affected area.
Be sure to stretch your chest before running or kicking!
The Final Stretch
After you’ve done these routines for a while, you can choose to either keep doing them or move on to a Yoga or Tai Chi routine. These stretching exercises are just the beginning of your flexibility training.
As you get older, it’s important to continue to challenge your muscles and joints in new ways because when you stop, that’s when problems start.
Just like our ancestors, you can increase your odds against diseases and disorders by keeping your body limber and agile. When you’re limber and agile, you can do more physically, which will lead to a happier and healthier life.
Sources & references used in this article:
The Great Stretching Debate by RS Eliot, DL Breo – 1989 – Bantam
Stretching Between Sets: Will it Make Me Grow More? by MJ Petrilli, M Roza – Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2011 – ERIC
Energy-aware weighted graph based dynamic topology control algorithm by T Mitchell – Sally Longyear (ed), 2008 – working-well.org