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"Slow-sustained stretching" is another way of saying "static stretching." Static stretching loosens joints for full range of motion, lengthens muscles, expands connective tissue and can help prevent injury during movement. When a muscle undergoes slow-sustained stretching, it is stretched to mild tension, not pain, and the stretch is sustained for a length of time. You can do a static stretch by yourself or with the help of a partner as in physical therapy sessions.
The slow speed of static stretching prevents muscle spindles or stretch receptors from activating. When muscle spindles are not activated, the muscles relax and do not contract, so muscle lengthening is further promoted. Slow-sustained stretching also benefits soft tissues surrounding the muscles by preventing them from absorbing high amounts of energy in a short time.
Cold muscles resist stretching in any form. Large muscle workouts associated with calisthenics or low-impact walking warm the muscles, soften the connective tissue surrounding the muscles and lower the resistance to stretching. Preceding stretches with light low-intensity exercise is both efficacious and most comfortable for muscle extension. You may walk, jog, do jumping jacks, skip rope, ride a stationary bicycle or even dance.
The University of California Berkeley School of Public Health offers sound static stretching advice. Start with 10-second static stretches and gradually build up to 20 and 30 seconds per stretch. Never stretch to the point of pain and do not hold your breath during exercise. Remember to stretch opposing muscles in arms and legs to prevent muscle imbalance. For instance, if you stretch biceps, stretch triceps. If you stretch hamstrings, stretch quadriceps. You may repeat each stretch up to four times within a 10- to 20-minute session. Avoid muscle contraction and getting stiff again by stretching at least three times per week and after each workout.
Some physicians and researchers do not recommend stretching at all. While exercisers may benefit from muscle extension and increased flexibility, they may also experience weakness and a loss of function from the same muscle for up to 30 minutes after a stretch. A 2005 study conducted at the University of Texas and published in the "European Journal of Applied Physiology" reported a correlation between the loss of power in one muscle after stretching an entirely different muscle. The most dangerous aspect of the muscle weakness theory is that the weakness is a symptom of muscle imbalance due to a stressed nervous system. An example of imbalance is tightness in the hamstrings when the quadriceps really need to stretch. Stretching the hamstrings in this instance further contracts the quadriceps and worsens the problem over time.