Monthly Archives: August 2016

To stretch or not to stretch?

Here at Pilates Connection, our clients are often surprised at how sore they are after embarking on a long walk. If you were going to the gym or on a long run, you may not even question doing a little warm up or cool down, however when it comes to walking, many see this as a “passive” exercise that doesn’t require any stretching.  So, the question remains – should we stretch before, after or before and after walking?

couple-stretching-exercising-fitnessiStock_000075997959_Medium(1)

Let me first state that when doing research for this article, there are many conflicting studies and reports, with no real general consensus on which combination of stretching will be the best for your body. When it comes to elite athletes who require big bursts of energy for explosive sports like sprinting, athletics, etc, some believe that stretching prior to exercise loosens up the muscles too much and can actually decrease power and performance. However, if you’re a gymnast or dancer that requires flexibility, stretching before hand can have a distinct advantage.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stretching can help improve flexibility, and, consequently, range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.”

There are two main types of stretching:

  • Static stretching: stretching a muscle to the point of mild discomfort and holding in that position for at least 30 seconds
  • Dynamic Stretching: performing a gentle repetitive movement but staying inside the normal range of motion (this might be a gentle walk as a warm up for running, or arm swings).

Most research has focused on static stretching, and as mentioned, the jury is still out as to whether stretching before exercise can help prevent injury, and whether it can reduce soreness when done after exercise. So, the moral of the story is – do what ever is right for your body – chances are it’s likely to make you feel better, and is unlikely to do you any harm.

In my personal opinion, most people will benefit from a few good stretches after going on a long walk, which may also help in reducing soreness the following days. Importantly, stretching also allows you to relax, slow down your heart rate and get your body back into balance. Here’s a few stretches I’d recommend at the end of your walk, which should take a total of 5 minutes (click on the link below to see pictures and instructions for each of these stretches:)

  • Buttock stretch
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Inner thigh stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Thigh / quad stretch

View the 5 minute stretch routine

If you’d like to do some further reading about the various studies on stretching, here are a few articles we’ve come across during our research:

NHS – UK’s largest Health Site

IFL Science

Mayo Clinic

Improve your golf game with Pilates!

Hit the golf ball longer, straighter and more accurately with less chance of injury!

Did you know there are 14 muscles used in a golf swing? Given the complexity of the movement, it’s no wonder there are so many injuries playing golf, especially in the shoulders, knees, and lower back. Whether you’re twisting the body on a drive, squatting down to measure a putt or leaning over to pick up a ball, golfers are constantly twisting their bodies. Golf also requires repeating the same essential movements. As a result some muscles become overused and others weaken, causing an imbalance.

Golf-Swing

Practicing a regular Pilates routine can really help improve your game, and lessen your chance of injury caused by poor posture and incorrect swing mechanics.
Let’s firstly break down what’s happening through the body in a typical golf swing. A great degree of rotation requires the golfer to have strength and control in the shoulder, upper back, arm, core, and lower back through the various phases of the swing:

  • Set Up: the set up is the most important phase of the golf swing, as the quality of the outcome will be influences by the setup position. Alignment, balance, and flexion are all key in this phase of the swing. A good setup position is important in order to avoid stress on the spine and to establish a proper position for the rest of the swing.
  • Back swing: during the back swing, rotation of the torso works in concert with the lifting and lowering of the arms.
  • Down swing: proper rotation and shoulder stability is imperative during the down swing.
  • Follow through: muscle activity diminishes as the swing is completed and held, which requires the golfer to maintain balance and posture.

So, how can Pilates help?

Pilates is based on movement from the centre of the body, as are most shots in golf. It strengthens the centre of the body, also known as the core. Core strength can improve hip rotation, range of motion in the shoulders and back stability leading to more powerful and accurate golf shots. It is also a full body exercise that works all muscles and is easy on the joints. The end result is a flexible, symmetrically muscled body that is strengthened from the inside out.

A stronger and more stable core helps golfers:
• Attain an optimal back swing and follow-through with increased range of motion in shoulders
• Get more distance and power because of added hip and torso flexibility
• Have a stronger and bigger hip turn for greater power through rotation
• Create a smoother and more powerful swing due to evenly conditioned back muscles
• Maximize balance and alignment while rotating
• Decrease fatigue because of less strain on the body
• Hold a body position long enough to play through a shot
• Play without pain!

So, whether you’re a weekend warrior, or a golfing pro like Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam (who are regular devotees), Pilates can help condition the right parts of your body for a great game, and aid in rehabilitation if you have a recurring injury caused by golf.

Extended Reading:
http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/pilates-exercises-for-golfers
http://www.pgatour.com/news/2007/05/23/pilates.html