Stretching is just as important as exercise itself. A lot of people neglect this part of their workout, though. Truly smart fitness buffs know that stretching should be part of any solid workout regime.
Benefits of Stretching
According to LifeHacker.com, stretching increases range of motion, improves flexibility and helps you maintain good posture. Plus, it decreases your risk of workout injury by prepping your muscles in advance. It also keeps your muscles from getting too sore by increasing the supply of nutrients and blood that flows to them.
According to Men’s Fitness, dynamic stretching should be performed prior to your workout. This type of stretching utilizes the full range of motion for your muscles. Examples of dynamic stretches include leg swings and the Spiderman Walk. Once you’ve gotten through your stretching routine, your body will be ready for heavy lifting. This is different than the stretching you’ll do post-workout, which will subdue your muscles and help you relax as opposed to getting fired up.
The biggest thing to remember when stretching before a workout is that your muscles need to be warmed up before stretching. Warm up for at least five minutes prior to stretching to avoid hurting yourself. Running in place is an easy way to prep your muscles for stretching. Ideally, your warm up will be a smaller version of the main workout you plan to do.
Static stretching, when you perform a stretch and then hold it for a few seconds, should be performed after your workout. Some people even do these stretches mid-workout. Static stretching dulls the nervous system, which is why it’s so good in the middle of a workout. For example, if you’re doing squats and you feel that your quads are getting more of a workout than your hamstrings and gluten, a static stretch will help lessen the involvement of the quads. An all-around static stretching routine is also great following a workout in order to relax all your muscles and wind down your body.
Some people like the mental benefits that come with stretching, like a calm mind, the chance to recharge their energy and a mental break. This is why it’s common for fitness lovers to spend a day or two a week doing stretching workouts, like pilates or yoga. You’ll get a full hour or more to release tension, both mentally and physically.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter how safely you perform your workout, you can still injure yourself if you haven’t prepared your muscles effectively. Stretching improves the tissue quality of your muscles, which keeps you safe while you hit the gym.