I’m confident there are a fair few of us that avoid stretching before or after a workout, am I right?
Well, there is no denying that stretching has its benefits but maybe not for the reasons you think, here are some:
- Reduces the risk of injury
- Increase your range of motion
- Improve circulation
- Help improve flexibility
- Increases blood flow to the muscle
All great reasons to be stretching but studies of the benefits such as improved performance are mixed. Some studies show that it helps, other studies report stretching before or after exercise has little if any benefit and “doesn’t reduce muscle soreness after exercise”. So while there is more research needed there are some definite wins if you do it correctly and safely. Lets a have a look at how:
Static and dynamic stretching are the most common
Static stretching is when you stretch a muscle to the end point and hold for a short period of time, usually around 10-30secs. This type of stretching is not recommended prior to a workout. Why? Visualise a cold rubber band, pull and let go, yep! If that rubber band is not warm or ‘appropriately’ stretched you may just hear that ‘snap’.
|After a workout as part of your cool down||Prior to a workout or use it as a warm up|
|Take the stretch to a comfortable spot and hold, don’t bounce!||When your muscles are cold|
|Keep doing it regularly||Stretch to the point of pain|
|Stretch a strained muscle without expert advice|
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends after properly warming up with dynamic stretching and then following your workout, static stretches should be held for 10-30seconds ‘per repetition’ with approximately four reps per ‘muscle group’. Muscle groups you may include:
Upper Body – chest, back and neck
Lower Body – Quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves
Hips and Groin
Dynamic stretching or ‘movement’ is the best way to warm up. This type of stretching is similar to your intended workout except at a lower intensity. E.g if you are going for a run, your dynamic stretching may include skipping or an easy walk that builds up to a slow jog. This allows the blood to start flowing through your muscles and the heart rate to rise. You need to warm the muscles before increase intensity to avoid injury.
Some dynamic stretches may include: butt-kicks, skipping, leg swing or any low impact/intense movement that mimics the workout you are about to do.
Yoga and Pilates are all about stretching and flexibility, and we know how good they are for us so there has to be something in making sure stretching is a part of your weekly workouts!
Oh there is another stretch, which is ‘ballistic’ stretching. It includes stretching the muscle and bouncing, now unless you are a gymnast – there is absolutely no need to do this!