Introduction & Contents


Cover

Benefits of stretching

Stretching has many benefits when done safely and can be good for either a sedentary or active lifestyle. It can help compensate for inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle, or prevent injury during work, sport and other types of exercise. Stretching can increase joint mobility, muscle flexibility and tone,  improve posture, reduce tension and pain and increase your fitness generally.

Stretching can be used as a warm up or for cooling down after vigorous exercise, for lengthening short muscles after activity. It is also useful for exercise involving muscle contraction or as a result of inactivity and for enabling muscles to exert force over a wider range of movement. Stretching is an important component to staying healthy and supple. It improves muscle stamina and endurance and can lead to a better quality of life. It can be done anywhere, anytime and best of all it is free!

The benefits of stretching can be divided into physical benefits, physiological benefits and psychological benefits …..

Problems with stretching

Although there are great benefits from doing stretches, there are also dangers. Over-stretching or poorly localised stretching can cause too much joint mobility or hypermobility and problems such as sprains, strains and joint instability. This book provides stretches that are safe and teaches you how to avoid these sorts of problems. Stretching also has limitations and does not provide all the physical needs required by the body. For example, it does not provide aerobic fitness, coordination or skill development and has limited capacity at building muscle strength. It should therefore not be considered as a total fitness program but as complementary to other exercise systems.

Individual differences

A ‘one size fits all’ approach to stretching can be dangerous. Differences in muscle flexibility and joint mobility are due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors and natural ageing processes. In addition, postural forces, major injuries, repeated minor traumas, our mental and emotional state and how we use our body, cause our body to change over time, resulting in significant individual differences between people.

Safe Stretch is a book which recognises these differences and takes them into account when suggesting stretching exercises. It considers if muscles need stretching, and if they do, which need strong stretching and which need light stretching. It also considers if some muscle groups need strengthening to maintain joint stability.

Genetics and lifestyle influence our body and shape us in a variety of ways and must be considered when designing a stretching program that best suits our needs. Ageing also changes our tissues and mobility and should be taken into account when designing a good stretching program.

Lifestyle

Our behaviour changes us both structurally and functionally. The types of physical activity, including lack of physical activity and other lifestyle factors modify the structure of our tissues, and this in turn influences the stability, mobility, flexibility and other functions of our body.

The frequency and the intensity we use our muscles affects their strength. The frequency we stretch as well as how far we stretch our muscles affects their length and flexibility. Under-activity and poor posture are characteristics of a sedentary lifestyle, which can include hours of sitting at a desk, driving a car and watching television. If these activities, or lifestyle choices are continued over months or years, this will result in muscle atrophy, weakness and shortness, reduced elasticity in ligaments and greater viscosity of synovial fluid, all of which can lead to loss of cartilage and increased joint stiffness.

Ageing

Ageing is the process of molecular and cellular changes that occur to an individual over the course of their lifetime with various effects on their structure and function. The accumulation of molecular errors that compromise cell functions occurs because of genetic, lifestyle, environmental and other factors.

Ageing is the accumulation of damage in molecules, …..

Posture

Posture is concerned with the carriage of the body as a whole, the head, spine and the position of the arms and legs. Good posture depends on optimal muscle tone, power and flexibility and on having appropriate balance between the agonists and antagonist muscles at the front and back of the body, and between the muscles on the left and right sides. Good posture also depends on appropriate ligament support around the joints.

Flexibility, mobility and stability

Flexibility and mobility are not the same. Mobility is the primary function of joints which should move freely and through a full range of movement. Flexibility or extensibility, is an important attribute of skeletal muscles, and is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to lengthen through a range of motion. Mobility is influenced by a range of factors including: ….

Types of stretches

There are two main kinds of stretches – dynamic stretches and static stretches. Dynamic stretching uses controlled muscle contraction to generate continuous swinging or to-and-fro movements to take a joint through its stiffness barrier. Dynamic stretching is …..
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The Introduction has the following headings:

Theoretical considerations

Benefits of stretching.

Problems with stretching: Individual differences

Genetic factors: Body types, Gender, Race, Ligament elasticity, Considerations for body type, Other genetic factors.

Lifestyle: The mind and mental health, Localised or generalised stiffness

Ageing: Age related stiffness and hypermobility.

Posture: Gravity and posture, Genes and posture, Curvatures of the spine, Lifestyle factors influencing posture, Effects of good or bad posture, Solutions, The Universal posture.

Flexibility, mobility and stability: Mobility and flexibility testing, Joint mobilisation, Mild versus strong stretching, Active versus passive stretching, Hypermobility and hypomobility, Types of Flexibility, Stability and flexibility, Other factors limiting range of movement.

Types of stretches

Medical conditions and stretching: Joint degeneration and mobility, Osteoarthritis, Central canal stenosis, Spondylolisthesis, Over-activity and under activity.

Practical aspects of stretching

How to use this book, Is stretching safe?

Props used in stretching: The floor, a chair, a wall, a rolled towel.

Daily consideration when stretching: Warming up in the morning, Evening stretching, Stretches for different situations, Food, Stretching routine, The order of stretching muscles, Pain during stretching, Other tissues affected by stretching, Muscle pain after exercise, Injury.

The barrier concept

Biomechanical factors: Force and speed, Levers, Gravity.

Optimal stretching: Speed and duration measured as breaths, Breathing, Anger and stretching, The focus during the stretch, Localised stretches versus complex stretches, Active, passive and post-isometric systems, Post-isometric stretches, What is the best way to begin stretching? Injuries, Overstretching, Rest, What should you stretch? Know your body, Posture, Stretching solutions.

Other exercise systems: How is stretching different from Yoga? Stretching in sport and exercise, Stretching classes, The effect of stretching on muscle strength.

Stretching the spine: Overuse patterns, Therapist controlled passive stretching, How long does stretching work? Localisation.

Neuroplasticity and stretching: Learning a skill, Use patterns affecting the brain, Feedback, Causes of poor spinal feedback, Complexity of skill and coding, Private tuition compared with group classes, Activities and lifestyle affect structure, Factors affecting structure and flexibility, Lengthening – temporary or long term, Ligament laxity, Overstretching, Ligament laxity from one or several events.

For a full listing of the books contents click on this link: Safe Stretch Contents