Updated: Aug 2, 2022
Stretching has many benefits: it can decrease your risk of injuries, it can help your joints move their full range of motion, it can increase your performance in physical activities, increase blood flow, enable your muscles to work more effectively, and improves the body's ability to do daily activities. There can also be detrimental effects to stretching - especially overstretching a muscle. Like anything else, too much stretching can create problems with the muscle fibers and connective tissues around them.
The lengthening of a muscle elongates the muscle cells and the surrounding connective tissue or fascia that surround, encase, and protect the muscle. The fascia make up approximately 30% of the muscle and when the muscle is stretched, about 40% of the stretch is coming from the elongation of the fascia. When the fascia tissue is stretched too much, the fascial tissues become less able to recoil and they become less functional as a result. The fascia contain nerves and blood vessels that nourish the muscles as well as collagen and elastin molecules that cushion and protect the muscle cells and provide anchors for motion. Painful micro-tears cause the muscles to become more vulnerable to injury.
Strength training has been proven to be very beneficial to build the muscles in order to stabilize the joints. Too much stretching can lead to joint instability which leaves the body vulnerable to injury. Pilates is an excellent exercise to help build the stability around the joints. It places emphasis on targeting the smaller (local) stabilizing muscles so that the body is able to move in a more functional way. Resistance is provided through spring tension on the Reformer, Cadillac, or Chair and can be adjusted to accommodate different levels. The springs can also provide support for the body in order to help increase strength. Exercises on the mat are also beneficial and may be more challenging due to the fact that it relies on the movement of the body without the assistance of springs. The concentration in Pilates is working on the core muscles so that they can provide the solid foundation that we need for our everyday activities.