What Does it Mean to Stretch?

What does stretching mean to you? When I ask clients what exercise have they done to alleviate their symptoms or what did they do for a warmup or cooldown, I often hear “stretching”.

The scientific definition of stretching is: “it’s a physical exercise that involves intentionally flexing and expanding a muscle or tendon to improve its elasticity and muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramps and to improve function in daily activities.”

That is a mouthful and encompasses a wide range of activity.

To give you a little bit of scientific background perspective to help you understand muscles and how they work – humans are 3 dimensional. We move in 3 different planes of motion at the same time: forward/back (sagittal plane), side to side (frontal plane), and rotationally (transverse plane). Therefore, so do our muscles/tendons/bones.

If you only “stretch” in 1 dimension, you leave out 2 other dimensions of movement. When you release the stretch, the muscles go back to their original length.

I had a friend who asked me why her husband has nothing to show for increased flexibility in his hamstrings when he has been stretching them for 15 years. She showed me how he was stretching, leaning forward over an extended leg mainly in standing. He was only stretching in the sagittal plane.

Stretching also needs to be done daily.

There are various forms of stretching, some more beneficial than others. There is static/isometric stretching, dynamic stretching, or active stretching.

Static stretching you are holding the position.

Dynamic stretching you are moving through the range of motion. This is more beneficial than static stretching. An example: stand in a lunge next to the wall and have your arms extended in front of you. Open the outside arm and touch the wall behind you.

Active stretching you are engaging the antagonist muscle. If you have a tight biceps (front of arm), then strengthen the triceps (back of the arm). This shortens the lengthened/weaker muscle and lengthens the shorter/stronger muscle.

3 major rules of don’ts: no bouncing, do not stretch a cold muscle, and do not stretch into pain.

Stretching is best after you exercise when the muscles have been warmed up and have improved elasticity. Before exercise, warmups doing low intensity exercise that simulates your activity is a better way of “stretching”. You also want to strive for symmetry in your muscles, so always work both sides of the body.

But just like everything else, you need to be consistent. Stretching once a week won’t be as beneficial as doing it every day. This will improve mobility, so that the next time you run for that tennis ball across court you don’t pull a “hamy”! (love that saying)

Need help in developing a good routine for your activities? Not sure where to begin in your exercise routine or want to be sure you are doing the exercises correctly? Click here to schedule a Free 20 minute Discovery call to discuss the issues you are having and how we can help.

To Your Health,


Cynthia Weiss

We Help Women To Increase Their Confidence In Achieving Their Goals Of Having An Independent & Mobile Lifestyle Without The Use Of Pain Medications Or Surgery.