Stretching alone cannot make you thin. But stretching does contribute to body thinness on three levels: elongation of muscle bulk for a thinner appearance; increased flexibility for greater range of motion and more effective exercise; and injury prevention to reduce the chances of interruption of physical activity. The kind of stretching that contributes to a thin body is not a warm-up or cool-down exercise, but a workout in its own right.
The Value of Stretching
A regular stretching regimen can loosen up your limbs -- which improves your range of motion -- and increases circulation throughout your body. These benefits contribute to an overall improvement in physical performance and your ability to engage in aerobics and resistance training for weight loss -- and a thinner you.
How Stretching Works
Muscles are made of layers of thick and thin myofilaments, some of which overlap. These fibers have an elastic quality, with the ability to contract and elongate. Stretching lengthens and aligns muscle fibers for less bulk and a thinner appearance. To achieve the lengthening effect of a stretch, you must hold a stretch until the muscle's natural reaction to contract -- or return to its initial status -- is relieved and the muscle relaxes.
Do static stretches by extending a muscle or muscle group until you feel slight discomfort, but not pain. Apply resistance by pulling against the muscle, as in bending forward and holding your foot to stretch your hamstring and calf muscle, or use another person or an object to apply resistance. Hold the stretch without bouncing for 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat a stretch several times at least twice a week during 10- to 30-minute sessions. Begin slowly and work up to more frequent sessions as you also increase session length. The benefits of static stretching are realized over a period of weeks or months as your muscles acclimate themselves to elongation and stop contracting as much.
Matters of Consequence
While stretching can help deliver blood to your muscles and joints, don’t stretch cold muscles. Perform five to 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise, such as walking or swimming before stretching. Stretch major muscle groups, such as hamstrings, hips and shoulders and make sure to stretch both sides.
If you have an injury, such as a pulled muscle, stretching may cause more damage. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program, including a stretching routine. Certain medical conditions may preclude some types of stretching exercises.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.