Workout must-have: stretching

Workout must-have: stretching


Regardless of whether you play a sport, do weight training or fancy jogging, there are two things that should always be present together with your exercises – the holy warmup before and a nice relaxing stretching rep afterwards. It does not have to be extensive but as long as the routine is there you will not only protect your muscles but also nicely complement your hard work. Aside for the basic why,when,what, I tried to gather a list of the most important benefits stretching has. Let’s have a look :)

Why? – The benefits of stretching

Body

  • increases our flexibility – our muscles will suffer less from soreness and grow better through our workouts
  • gives better blood circulation
  • there has been scientific proof found that stretching improves brain activity
  • improves our breathing functions through muscle relaxation
  • allows better and wider movements of our limbs – especially valuable when playing sports
  • helps in having better posture – whether from an incorrect sleeping position, spending too much time in front of the computer with a rounded back (here here!) or having exaggerated with our workouts, tight muscles will recover and allow us to hold a nice, straight posture
  • prevents muscle injury
  • the substances triggered during stretching regulate insulin, metabolism

Mind

  • excellent relaxation means – try out also stretching provided via yoga and Pilates classes
  • releases tension
  • boosts our mood and helps regulate emotions
  • provides a refreshing feeling

Who?

Each and every one of course – especially since this is a type of activity suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It doesn’t matter how stretchy you are. It’s really not necessary to place your foot behind your ear from the very beginning :) We leave the Jackie Chan stuff for later. Through discipline and by stretching on a daily basis, you will be able to see progress. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to give a month of daily practicing to one of the following: bend over and try touching your toes or try the split (foto above) but I would keep that only for the ladies reading this :))

Also, bare in mind that our muscles have quite a bad memory – if you skip your stretching for a while you’re basically back to square one.

What?

Mainly, there are 2 types of stretching – static & dynamic. I would also add that you can stretch by yourself but more efficiently, in pairs. Not only you have a partner that feels your pain, but you also stand better chances to be efficient and get better results. There are pluses and minuses for both static and dynamic stretching but what is important to keep in mind you’ll find below:

  • Static – stretch a muscle until you feel a discomfort. Once that is there, keep still and breathe for at least 5 seconds. Big no-no: doing it before a workout – it will relax your muscles at a very wrong timing, when you need them strong and prepared for effort; so, always keep your static stretching after your workout;
  • Dynamic – perform muscle stretches through small, subsequent repetitions – keep a small tempo and do it only to an extent that makes you comfortable. This type of stretching is useful as a warm-up, will help prevent muscle injury.

To wrap up, I found a pretty cool article to guide you through the most important stretches per muscle group. You can check it out here. Usually, we tend to treat stretching superficially and only do a few repetitions and then try to bail. It’s important to understand that muscles are faced with quite a lot of pressure when working out and that their growth implies tiny ruptures. Therefore, we need to give them the chance to a smooth transition and to proper recovery. Make sure you cover all the muscle groups you’ve worked out and give them a good stretch. Oh, yes! And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Over and out :)

Master stretcher,

Presi

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