We’ve all heard how valuable stretching is before starting a workout session. But is there any proof backing this belief? For example, have you ever heard someone saying, If you do not stretch before your workout, you will hurt yourself or tear your muscle? This is the favorite phrase of every PE teacher, after all. But is there any truth to these words?
Is Stretching Good Before or After Workout Sessions?
Many people find stretching inconvenient and ‘a waste of time,’ which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Warming up your muscles before starting your workout and cooling them after you finish the session are vital for staying flexible.
The benefits of stretching go farther than workout sessions. Practicing regular stretching can help you remain flexible later in life.
Stretching is essential, especially after long periods of stagnation, such as sitting on a chair at work. Sudden movement can damage your body as a whole, as sitting still tightens your muscles. By stretching, you loosen up and increase your body’s mobility, avoiding any tears or damage that can occur with sudden movement. That is why stretching before starting your workout session is paramount.
Stretching before beginning your workout is equally important as stretching after finishing it. This is because your body sustains immense effort, stress and force throughout the workout. Post-workout stretches, also called maintenance stretches, calm your muscles and diminish the body’s soreness. Also, practicing post-workout stretches improves your body’s blood flow.
But What If I Don’t Have Enough Time for Stretching?
Some people do not have enough time to add pre and post-workout stretches to their schedule. You can easily rectify this by replacing some easy or short exercises with stretches. Remember that stretches are essential for injury prevention and preparing your muscles for the effort that is about to come, so don’t feel guilty for pulling exercises out of your workout!
You may wonder how much of your time you should allocate to stretching. This aspect depends only on you and your schedule. One thing’s certain — you don’t have to stretch for half an hour! A couple of minutes are enough to prepare your muscles and body for a workout or cool it down after many exercises.
Pre and Post-Workout Stretching Routines
Dynamic Pre-Workout Stretches
Dynamic stretches are designed to prepare and bring your muscles to a full range of motion. This is achieved by raising the temperature in your body which, in turn, reduces the tension. Think about trying some of the following dynamic pre-workout stretches before you start exercising:
- Lunges: An easy exercise that stimulates your leg and core muscles.
- Squats: They may not be everyone’s favorite, but squats engage your whole body. You can also add claps to this technique to spice it up.
- High knees: The high knees stretching technique improves your posture and engages your leg muscles. It’s equivalent to jogging in one place!
- Plank walk-outs: They may be the most engaging but challenging stretching technique. You may be tired after a couple of plank walk-outs, but remember that this technique loosens up your entire body.
- Butt kicks: Another great stretching technique for your leg and core muscles and posture.
Static Post-Workout Stretches
Long and tiring workout sessions ask for simple stretching techniques. Static stretching requires you to hold a position between 10 and 60 seconds. This technique allows your body to slow down and enter a relaxed state. Post-workout stretches increase your flexibility and diminish the risk of injury.
- The shoulder stretch: The most famous stretch you can think of. Just by stretching your shoulder, you will engage a plethora of your body’s muscles!
- The Cobra stretch: Lying down sounds like what you need after a tiring workout. Not only do you engage with your back and chest muscles, but you also have a few moments to relax your legs.
- Side bend: This stretching technique engages your core, arms and legs.
- Toe touch: An excellent technique for your posture. You may find yourself a bit tired doing this stretch, but your entire body will thank you for it!
- Quadriceps stretch: Another stretching technique that requires low effort. You will fall in love with this stretch — in a matter of weeks, it will be the first one on your list!
Remember, stretching does not require you to be an athlete or a gym rat. You can stretch whenever you want! Just keep in mind to stretch from time to time, especially after you spend time in a single place without moving. For example, you can do it after you leave your desk or get up from your couch. Stretching is essential for your muscles to remain healthy and flexible.
A Parting Reminder
Even if you are not someone who exercises or goes to the gym, try allocating some time to stretching every day. Maintaining the health and flexibility of your muscles is something everyone should consider. Find the stretching techniques you enjoy the most and practice them every day. You can also try a new stretch every other day until you create the perfect routine for yourself!