What happens when you stretch your muscles?
You know you should stretch – and you know you feel good when you do it. But what actually happens when you stretch muscles properly?
We spoke with Nikos Apostolopoulos, director of the Microstretching Clinic in Vancouver, on what stretching really means and how to do it right. Start out small, try these easy stretching routines first.
Flexibility is the key to stretch muscles properly
Your flexibility comes from several factors: Joints, ligaments, tendons and muscle.
Some of us, for example, are simply born with looser ligaments and more mobile joints – and that’s not something you want to work on changing, as ligaments connect bone to bone and are important for overall stability in the body.
“If you lengthen your ligaments, you have a problem,” says Apostolopoulos.
The focus in stretching is on the muscle itself and on where the tendons and muscles meet (tendons connect muscle to bone).
“Tendons and muscle seem to be the main structures for flexibility work,” he says. “It’s that interface that’s important.”
As well as joint and ligament structures, your muscle mass (i.e., how strong you are) can affect how far you can stretch, too. “Training really affects flexibility,” Apostolopoulos says.