To improve your flexibility, it is essential to learn, when to stretch, what to stretch and how to stretch.

First thing in the morning, when your body calls far a nice, slow stretch, it’s your muscles calling. Those muscles and joints know what they need.

Stretching helps the muscles maintain the ability to lengthen and return to their original length. This action also helps the the muscle to work in a full range of motion. Maintaining this full range of motion also benefits joint stability and muscle strength.

All these factors lead to great muscle length, tone and strength.

What we’ll cover here are some guides to safe and effective stretch techniques. The “no pain, no gain” philosophy is not applicable here. These stretching tips will help you achieve a better work out with less risk of injury.

By including a short warm-up prior to any exercise activity, you allow the body to prepare itself. Even if your only purpose is to stretch, the term, warm-up still applies. Doing some large muscle movements with the legs, such as knee lifts, squats, and a short walk, can do this. Next some slow range of motion exercises such as arm rotations, shoulder shrugs and toe raises. These are a few examples for a warm-up or even as a cool down routine.

There are several actions that have to be carried out in your body to perform a stretch and safety is still most important. Stretching before a strength training session has not conclusively been proven to decrease the risk of injury. By including a gentle and short stretch between sets helps with time efficacy and may help to rid your muscle of lactic acid. To stretch during your strength training workout, anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds is sufficient to hold. This is not the time to try to increase the muscle with any force though.

To increase your range of motion or improve muscle and joint mobility, a slower more specific type of stretch routine may be necessary. This formula is slightly different due to the length of time the muscle is held in the lengthened position. Typically a stretch is held anywhere between 45 seconds up to 3 minutes. Be sure to listen to what your muscle asks for, it often knows what feels best.

Within the fitness industry, new studies often find improved movements. In the past, bouncing during a stretch was quite common, but has now been shown to increase the risk of injury at the tendon attachment, so avoid bouncing while stretching. Finally, the key to stretching properly is to maintain good form. Don’t look lazy while stretching. Be aware of your spine, joint placement and of the lovely, long, lean muscles. And don’t forget to breathe.