Getting in any form of exercise daily is a great habit. It makes you fit and keeps your health in check. While it’s important to strength train, flexibility is an important part too.
Moreover, when you train your muscles, lactic acid tends to accumulate in them. To increase your blood flow, it is important to include a stretching session in your regime too.
To make sense of things, let’s further discuss this in detail.
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1. The Need for Stretching After Exercise
1.1. Recover From a Workout
Whenever we strength train, it increases 1muscle soreness. Moreover, the body produces lactic acid which accumulates and results in joint pain and muscle fatigue. To recover from a workout quickly, it’s important to stretch to counter muscle sourness.
Moreover, stretching increases flexibility. It helps the tense muscles to come back to a more comfortable state. This helps the body to prevent injuries. Doing leg stretches can help improve muscle endurance so you can run longer.
1.3. Improved Blood Flow
Working out intensely increases the amount of blood that flows through our body. This results in our heart pumping faster than usual. Doing post-workout stretches helps slow down the heart rate and cool our bodies down. This increases the rate of muscle recovery and repairs the wear and tear caused during workouts.
1.4. Increased Muscle Mobility
Stretching can lead to an increase in the range of motion. Sometimes the muscle tension reduces the amount that you can bend in an exercise. Stretching after a workout can increase the amount that you can bend. This increases the output that you can get out of exercise. Increased muscle mobility is another benefit of stretching tired muscles.
Strength training regularly drains your body and tenses your muscles. This could sometimes lead to serious injuries. Stretching helps loosen the muscles and helps prevent injuries to some extent.
1.5. Relieves Stress
Another added benefit of stretching is that it helps relieve stress and improves the quality of sleep. It increases the mind-body connection and helps give us mental clarity.
2. Different Types of Stretching
When you get into the world of stretching, you would come across two types of stretching the most. They are named Static and Dynamic stretching. Let’s discuss in detail about these two.
2.1. Static Stretching.
Holding a stretch for more than 20 seconds is considered static stretching. These are generally done after working out. It provides relief to the tensed-up muscle after long workouts. Just like exercises, various timed sets of stretching exercises are done. It can help relieve a person from muscle spasms and help to heal from an injury. Bending and touching toes is one of its examples.
2.2. Dynamic Stretching.
When you move your limbs through their full range of motion and repeat it several times, it is called dynamic stretching. These stretches are generally done before working out. These stretches can also be chosen as warm-ups before aerobic exercises.
These stretches gently pump blood into our muscles which makes them ready for handling stress and load. It also helps to open up the joints which further increases the range of motion of your muscles. For instance. lying on your back and raising your legs in the air is one of these stretches done for hamstring stretching.
2.3. PNF Stretching.
PNF stands for “Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation”. This type of stretching includes a combination of isometric contractions and static stretches. It is a helpful method to increase the range of motion and muscle flexibility. You would need a partner to help you perform it. Caution should be observed as there’s a potential for muscle injury.
These stretches are performed in a hold-relax kind of manner. A particular muscle is stretched and then that stretch is held for a few seconds. After that, the muscle contracts without moving it. Repeating this several times increases the flexibility of that muscle.
2.4. Ballistic Stretching.
It is a dynamic method to extend the joint up to its limit to lengthen the muscle and then add pulsing motion to it. The resulting momentum helps allow the joint to go further than its capability, giving you a good stretch.
A classic hamstring stretch is an example of it. Sit and extend your arms. Now, try touching your toes in that posture. After getting within a few inches of your toes, start to pulse back and forward.
3. Incorporate These Stretches into Your Routine
Stretching after the muscle you worked out helps relieve stress from that muscle. These are various stretches that could be performed after a workout. These only involve the use of a yoga mat that would help decrease the stress on joints.
3.1. Piriformis Stretch
The goal of this stretch is to target the muscle that runs from below the spine to the thigh bone. It helps relieve pressure or soreness in the hips, legs, and back.
First, extend your legs in front of you while sitting. Then place your left ankle on your right knee. In this posture, try to lean forward. Perform this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Also, repeat it with your right ankle afterwards.
3.2. Standing Calf Strech
It is the best calf stretch to prioritize the muscles in your calf. Stand in a position with the left knee in front of the right knee and heels touching the ground. Bend the left knee forward. Make sure to keep the right leg straight. Bend it until a stretch is felt in your right calf. Hold this position for 20-30 sec and then switch the legs and repeat.
3.3. Cat-cow Stretch
The best stretch to relieve the stress from back muscles is the Cat-cow stretch.
Lay your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure to keep your spine in a neutral position. Then inhale through your stomach such that it sinks in the direction of the floor. After this lift your head and begin to exhale. Then round the spine away from the floor, in a position where your tailbone is tucked. Finally, move your head towards the floor. Do this several times again.
3.4. Cobra- Stretch
The best stretch to target your lower back and chest is the cobra stretch.
Lay flat with your abdomen on the floor and your feet in a lengthened position. Put your hands in line with your chest and push upwards to lift your chest. Your spine would be in a curled position.
3.5. Samson Stretch
This stretch targets your thighs and abdomen area.
Start by standing straight and then take a step forward with one of your legs. It’s just like performing a lunge. Bend your right knee in the forward direction. Meanwhile, keep your left knee glued to the ground. Join your hands together. Try keeping them above your head. Hold it for about 10 seconds. Also, perform this with your other leg.
3.6. Quadriceps Stretch
Lose those tight quadriceps with this stretch.
Firstly, stand in a straight position. Then start by lifting your toes so that it touches your glutes. Hold it for several seconds and then perform with the other leg. You may use any solid object for support.
4. Benefits of Doing Stretches Before Working Out
4.1. To Prevent Injuries
Stretching before working out also helps you to check whether you are ready for a workout or not. On feeling a weird pain, it’s better to rest than to get injured. This helps to prevent injuries. However, these warmups should be done with a low to moderate intensity. High-intensity warm-ups could tire you, resulting in a less efficient workout afterward.
4.2. Dynamic is Better Than Static
Dynamic stretching should be done before exercising or in the gym. It helps your muscles to stretch in a wider range of motion than static stretching. One of the reasons why static stretch isn’t done before working out is because it reduces strength.
Some of the dynamic stretches include the child’s pose, donkey kicks, bird-dog crunch, etc.
After analyzing the above-mentioned facts, it’s clear that stretching is as important as working out. Whether stretching is done post or pre-workout, stretching helps in the building of an efficient body. If you want to reap the most from your workouts, then you have to stretch your way in.
Moreover, if needed, physiotherapy is perfect to recover from those injuries or tightness. It can help stabilize your body, so you can stay injury-free.
- 1muscle soreness