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The Most Effective Form of Stretching — Are You Doing This?

You’ve probably heard that stretching is an important part of injury prevention, but that’s not the only benefit it offers. Flexibility is likely the most overlooked part of a workout routine. Even if you’re not a professional athlete, stretching and mobility play an important role in fitness and overall health. In just 15 minutes a day, you can improve your flexibility and balance and help reduce muscle and joint pain, through stretching.

Believe it or not, there really is a “right” way to stretch. Ballistic stretching involving a bobbing motion is often erratic and uncontrolled. This type of stretching should always be avoided — it increases your risk of muscle tears. Static stretching, which involves holding a muscle in a stretch position for up to 60 seconds, has been the gold standard for decades. But research shows that prolonged static stretching actually reduces blood flow in the tissue.

So how should you be stretching? Try a self-treatment technique called Myofascial stretching.

Myofascial stretching helps to relieve pressure in fascia — the tough connective tissue surrounding every cell of the body, from head to toe. The fascial system tightens in response to injury, trauma, inflammation and poor posture, which puts pressure on nerves, muscles, blood vessels, bones and organs, and results in pain, restriction of motion and structural misalignment.

Myofascial stretching offers greater benefits than traditional stretching. It helps keep the entire fascial chain tight to help prevent and relieve pain and injury — a vastly underestimated component that can help improve your quality of life. Healthy fascia play an important role in inflammation control, wound healing and pain relief.

Tips for Myofascial stretching:

All Myofascial stretches must be held continuously for a minimum of 90 to 120 seconds to allow a release of elastic and muscular components of the tissues.

Use active elongation to engage the fascial barrier. An example of this would be extending your arm out of the side with your wrist bent backward, then reaching, elongating and holding the stretch to feel resistance and engage the barrier.

Focus on releasing the tension in your tissues and directing your breath into the restriction.

Use an inflatable ball or foam roller to place gentle pressure on areas of fascial restriction for 3 to 5 minutes.

• Keep the intensity mild to moderate — never force the issue.

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