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Stretching

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Stretching is a very important, but often overlooked, aspect of Parkour, Freerunning, and tricking. It consists of stretching muscles, either to increase their range of motion or prevent cohesion.

Types of stretchingEdit

There are three main types of stretching: dynamic, static, and isometric. Dynamic stretching is a gentle, relaxed motion which brings the limb closer to its greatest range of motion. It is commonly used as a warmup, however, it will increase flexibility as well. An example would be leg swings.

Static stretching is best performed after training or working out. It consists of holding a stretch for anywhere from 20 to 45 seconds. Common stretches include the pike stretch or butterfly stretch. It is used primarily to relax the target muscles, although some gains in range of motion can be made.

Isometric stretching or PNF stretching is generally when an increased range of motion is desired. It involves a contraction of the opposing muscle to place the target muscle on stretch. This is followed by an isometric contraction of the target muscle. It involves using the muscle being stretched, while stretching it.

Ballistic stretches are similar to static stretches, except preformed while "bouncing" to increase the range of motion. While it was considered an advanced stretch is now considered very dangerous as the benefits are limited while the risk of injury is high.

When to stretchEdit

There are two main times traceurs stretch - before and after training. These types of stretching are different and should not be confused.

Stretching before training reduces cohesion between muscle fibers. Muscle fibers tend to stick together when not being used, reducing their range of motion and increasing the risk of injury. Dynamic stretching is best suited for this type of warm up.

Stretching after training helps absorb lactic acid, reducing muscle soreness. Since the muscles are fatigued they also stretch more easily, allowing for the range of motion to be increased. Static stretching is best suited for this purpose.

Benefits of stretchingEdit

One of the most common injuries athletes get are pulled muscles. This occurs when a muscle is stretched beyond its maximum range of motion, causing it to tear. This is especially prone to happen in commonly used muscles such as the calves, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Stretching increases the range of motion, making it more difficult for a tear to occur.

Having very tight muscles causes other, less used muscle groups from not being used at all. For instance, having tight hip flexors often results in the glutes not being used as well when jumping or landing, resulting in a greater chance of injury as the force of the landing is not dissipated properly.

Tight muscles also do not absorb force as well as loose ones, causing more of the force to accumulate in the joints. This is especially true of the calves; if they are tight, it can lead to runner's knee.

Some movements also require good flexibility to preform, such as the straddle vault, back handspring, aerial, and front pike.

Common stretchesEdit

Dynamic stretchesEdit

  • Forward leg swing With the toes pointed, gently swing your leg up forwards. Do not let your chest go down. Loosens the hamstrings and hip flexors.
  • Side leg swing Gently swing your leg out to the side. Loosens the groin muscles.

Static stretchesEdit

  • Wrist stretch Gently pull your hand towards the forearm, both forwards and backwards.
  • Shoulder stretch Reach behind the neck for shoulder of the opposite side. Stretches the shoulder and triceps.
  • Cobra or Seal stretch Lie on your stomach, and using your arms to support your body, arch your back until you feel a stretch. Stretches the back muscles. It is best to learn this stretch with professional supervision due to the higher risk of injury.
  • Pike stretch Sit on the ground with the legs outstretched, and reach for your toes. Make sure the back is not curved. Stretches the hamstrings.
  • Butterfly stretch Sit with your knees bent and your heels close to your groin, and let your knees drop towards the floor (the elbows can be used to gently push them down if necessary). Stretches the groin muscles.
  • Straddle stretch Sit on the ground with legs spread as wide as possible, and try to touch your nose to the ground in front of you.
  • Pike: A position in which the knees are straight and the hips are bent. Commonly seen during flips. Stretches the hamstrings.
  • Hip flexor stretch One of the most important stretches as the hip flexors tend to become very tight. While on one knee or in a lunge position, push your hips forward and keep your back upright, and shift your weight forwards.
  • Runner's stretch or quadriceps stretch Grab the ankle of one leg and pull the heel to your butt or until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Keep your chest upright and your knees close together. A wall or sturdy object can be used to lean against.
  • Calf stretch Take a long step forward, and lean forward against a wall or sturdy object. Keep the knee of the back leg straight and the heel on the ground.

Warnings about stretchingEdit

  • Never stretch cold muscles. Make sure that they are warmed up before stretching them.
  • Don't go too hard too fast when stretching, as this can result in a pulled muscle. When preforming dynamic stretching, make sure to do so in a relaxed, gentle motion; don't swing your limb hard and don't flex it.
  • Don't bounce. This is very dangerous.

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