Though stretching has long been a mainstay of nearly every workout routine, does it have as much of an effect on performance when done before a workout? Flexibility is an important component of fitness which is exactly why stretching should be a part of every workout program.
Myth: Always make sure to stretch out before the workout to help improve your performance and strength.
Fact: Holding stretches (like the runner's stretch or a quad stretch) isn't proven to help prevent injury or cut back on post-workout muscle soreness. It can actually hurt your performance, since researchers believe stretching can tire out your muscles.
Stretching can HURT you or HELP you
Some trainers and textbooks recommend stretching before and after your workout because it can help your performance and reduce the risk of injuries. However, numerous research studies have shown that some types of stretching can enhance your workout while others do not improve or reduce your athletic capabilities. So stretching to try and avoid the inevitable painful follow-up to a heavy workout is certainly not necessary. It's best if you perform dynamic stretching before your workout and static stretching afterward. Don't ruin your workout by warming-up the wrong way.
Have you heard about static and dynamic stretching and wondered how they differ?
Static stretching involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time, usually 30 - 60 seconds. Static stretching is typically done at the end of your workout, once your muscles are relaxed. To gain more flexibility, do traditional stretches after your workout when your muscles are warm and more mobile. Or stretch out on its own, as a separate workout.Dynamic stretching involves active movements. With this type of stretch, your joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.
Try performing a "dynamic warmup"
A great idea is to warm-up doing lower-intensity versions of the same movements you plan on doing during your workouts. These include brisk walking, leg swings, squats, gentle arm circles, etc. Dynamic stretching should be done before a workout to help warm up the muscles and get your heart rate up. For instance, a runner may jog in place or pump his/her legs before starting a race.
Points to remember when you stretch
- old your stretch - Breathe normally and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds.
- Don't aim for pain - Expect to feel the tension and not pain while stretching. If it hurts, you've pushed yourself too far. Back off to the point where you don't feel any pain and hold the stretch.
- Focus on major muscle groups - Concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders.
- Make sure that you stretch both sides.
- Always maintain a steady breathing rhythm while stretching.
- Technique - While you can stretch anytime, anywhere, proper technique is key. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good.
- Don't consider stretching as a warmup - You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging, or biking at a low intensity for five to 10 minutes.
- If you have a chronic condition or an injury, adjust your stretching techniques accordingly. For example, if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may get worse. Talk to a personal trainer about the most appropriate way to stretch if you have any health concerns.
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Benefits of post-workout stretch
Exercising increases your body's temperature, including that of your muscles. So when you stretch your muscles after a workout session, it helps to cool them down gradually and improve their flexibility. With consistent post-workout stretches, you will find it easier to bend, stand, squat, and do a host of other flexibility related exercises.
Improved blood circulation
Stretching allows the body to cool down and helps the heart to slowly recover at its normal pace. Stretching increases blood supply to your muscles and joints, which allows greater nutrient transportation and circulation of blood through your entire body.
Eliminates lactic acid
Heavy exercises make the body pump blood faster to the heart and increase the heart rate. This leads to a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles.
After a hard workout, stretching your muscles helps in keeping them loose and lessens the tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.
Improved range of motion
Stretching helps improve your range of motion, which in turn slows down the degeneration of your joints. By increasing our range of movement, we're allowing ourselves a greater ability to move more freely and reduce the risk of muscle and tendon strain injuries.
Increased muscular coordination
When you stretch tired muscles, you give them better mobility and allow them to synchronize properly.
Stretching isn't just for the muscles. It helps to harmonize your mind, relaxes your mind, and relieves stress. Stretching also gives you a chance to notice any sore muscles or joints that need extra attention or a break.
Get help from the best online personal trainers
Do you prefer to stretch before or after your workout? Will you change your stretching routine after reading this? If you take this advice to heart and stretch before after your workouts, we're sure you'll be feeling better! If you need weight loss training or looking for the online fitness trainer in Australia, we can help. Our top personal trainers understand your health goals, motivate you, and help you achieve your fitness goals with the best online fitness program in Australia. Reach out today.