Ladies and Gentlemen, we live in a modern age. We have computers in our pockets, the cure for cancer is right around the corner, and being flexible is not just for girls. This week in London, Olympic gymnast Sam Mikulak has proven that you can be flexible and still have big muscles. (Not to mention, a gorgeous face. GO TEAM USA!)
Being flexible has so many advantages. Your muscles release tension and elongate while stretching, which makes them less likely to be injured. Everybody knows that a solid yoga session can do your body and your mind a world of good. And believe it or not, stretching will make you a faster athlete! Think about it. You take time every day to get a good stretch, and consequently your range of motion increases. This newfound ROM lets you drive your knee higher and punch your elbow back farther as you sprint with perfect form, right?
More knee drive + Punching elbow = Longer stride.
The longer your stride, the more distance you cover. Suddenly you can go farther than you used to, using the same amount of energy in the same amount of time. In other words, you got FASTER! Look, you didn’t even have to pay me and I’m already making you a better athlete. It’s that simple.
There are lots of different ways to stretch. One of my personal favorites is PNF Stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. PNF Stretching was originally used by physical therapists to rehabilitate paralyzed patients, but gained popularity in the 1970’s among healthy athletes to increase range of motion. PNF is different than other types of stretching because it requires a partner, whether that partner is a wall, band, a trained professional, or a bribed younger sibling. The great thing about having a partner to help you stretch is that you can push your body harder than you could on your own. Get your teammate to help you out, and then kindly return the favor.
How to Stretch Effectively: PNF Style
- The stretcher pulls on the stretchee’s targeted muscle to lengthen it before stretching.
- The stretcher moves the limb to stretch the targeted muscle as far as the stretchee will allow. Hold for 6 seconds.
- The stretcher then moves the limb into a deeper stretch, actively furthering range of motion of the stretchee. Hold for 3 sets of 10 seconds. Relax for 2-5 seconds between each set.
-Be sure, as a stretcher, that you keep every joint of the stretchee in alignment. Keep movements slow and be aware of their limits.
-As a stretchee, remember to breathe normally. Communicate any pain or uncomfortable pressure.
-Don’t ever stretch cold! Always warm up for 5-10 minutes first. Get your blood pumping and your rippling muscles warm. If you see anyone stretching before their warm up, please don’t follow their bad example.
Remember, stretching is worth it! Plus, everyone needs a good stupid human trick, and twisting yourself into a pretzel is a pretty admirable one. Keep on keepin’ on!