Flexibility is an important part of being fit. Stretching is a key way to increase your flexibility. It is important to stretch before and after a workout, especially with the muscles that are in the work out routine. Stretching is a way to warm up and cool down muscles, get blood to your muscle cell, increase the range of motions of joints, and put less stress on joints, muscles and connective tissue.
Proprioreceptors on muscles relay muscle movement information to the central nervous system (CNS). When the muscle stretches to a maximal point, the CNS signals for the muscle to contract. After some seconds, other proprioreceptors signal a relaxation reaction. This all prevents overstraining muscles and injury.
In Proprioreceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), the muscle is stretched to a greater degree by increasing the proprioceptor signals through a 5- to 10-second voluntary muscle contraction, followed by a 5- to 10-second voluntary muscle relaxation. The athlete holds and contracts the muscle against resistance from a partner for 10 seconds. The athlete then relaxes, and the partner slowly moves the muscle to a new static position. This is repeated two to three times.
Intermediate and advanced athletes should partake in this type of stretching, and should be overseen by a personal trainer the first time they do it.
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Some information from this blog is obtained from http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.pnf.htm Accessed on November 10, 2005