Stretching is one of the best solutions to prevent a muscular cramp which is relatively common in athletes as the active muscular group, single active muscle or even part of the muscle that’s activated is shortened and constantly stimulated. The muscle becomes fatigued and becomes a reflex arc which is made up of the muscle, the nerves carrying signals to your CNS (or brain and spinal cord) and the nerves carrying signals from the CNS back to the muscle to keep signaling your muscles to contract otherwise a sustained contraction which leads to a painful muscular cramp.
Stretching breaks the reflex arc found most often in muscles that cross two joints in most exercise-induced cases. It’s as crucial as taking a bottle of water (or a Gatorade if you’re an athlete) with you on your workouts because stretching can help lengthen the muscle and surrounding connective tissue in a safe manner without contributing to injury and pain down the line. If you continue to ignore stretching techniques, your risk of “muscular knotting” (trigger points), injury, pain and even loss of movement doubles down the line.
Dynamic stretching is the stretches that you may remember from gym class (Big and little arm circles, anyone?) When performed correctly, dynamic stretches warms up joints, improves ROM (or range of motion) and reduced muscle tension making it more ideal for warming up. It may not, however, be recommended for everyone especially if you don’t know the proper movement.
Static stretching is best done to wind down after a workout. It’s best done when you want to break the reflex arc that I’ve mentioned earlier. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds or until you start to feel less resistance. Usually about 20 seconds.
How to prevent muscle cramps and maintain muscle flexibility:
- Take a good multivitamin pill, one with zinc and magnesium.
- Self-massage the muscle or get regular massages from a sports massage therapist.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Maintain your electrolyte balance (like salt and potassium)
- Stretch before and after workouts.
- See a physcian or nutritionist to correct imbalances in your diet.
- If you have any questions about your workout (or correcting your form), ask a trainer!
I have been asked to conduct another speaking engagement in a few weeks. This time, I will be speaking at a huge retailer for their employee wellness week so next week I’ll be devoting posts especially tailored to employee wellness so look out for that!