Whether you’re new to the exercise world or on track to becoming a professional athlete, you’ve heard people emphasize the importance of stretching. And, many people have the same idea of what stretching is: a few minor movements you should make before a workout. This is, however, a common misconception. There are several different styles of stretching, each suitable for varying goals, as well as body parts. In this post, we’ll discuss these styles of stretching, as well as some of their benefits.
Stretching Vs. Warming Up
Yes, they’re similar. But no, they’re not the same. Many people use these terms interchangeably, and while they’re related, they are different.
The goal of warming up is literally to increase body heat. By getting your body moving, you can increase the heart rate as well as the circulation of blood to the muscles.
Before you even think about stretching, it’s important to have warmed up. Generally, warm-ups are split into two portions: joint rotation and aerobic activity.
Starting from your toes and working upwards, move each joint in a circular motion in both directions. This will help the joints to move smoothly and without pain through the rest of the workout
This can be any activity that increases your heart rate. Brisk walks, light jogs, jumping jacks, and lunges are all common examples.
Like dehydration, failure to warm up will not bode well for a workout strategy. Experiment with different techniques, and find the one that works best for your body and goals.
6 Goals of Stretching
After warming up your body, it’s time to perform some carefully selected stretches. The style of stretching you choose should vary with your goals, but we’ll get into that later. Generally, stretching helps you to accomplish your workout goals by readying your muscles, and optimizing the gains.
1. Improve Range of Motion
Stretching properly will allow your body to reach its full potential of motion during your workout. It will allow you to perform the workout with greater comfort, and more mobility.
2. Strengthened Muscles
The right stretching technique will give your muscles greater power during the workout. It will also improve your overall balance, both during and after the workout.
3. Improved Post-Workout State
While it will not negate it entirely, stretching properly will help your body to minimize the soreness that occurs after a workout. This will allow you to resume your daily activities without added stress.
4. Decrease Muscle Fatigue
When you work out one particular section of your body, you are naturally more sore in that section. Stretching takes some of the pressure off of these muscles by working others muscles.
5. Enter a State of Mental Relaxation
The benefits of stretching aren’t just physical. Whether you are taking a yoga class or doing a quick stretch before a run, there are ample mental health benefits
6. Decrease Risk of Injury
Stretching these muscles will prepare them for movement, and prevent common injuries.
4 Common Stretching Mistakes
Even with the proper technique, there are a few ways that stretching can go wrong.
1. Lack of Warm-Up
Without a proper warm-up, stretching will be more harmful than helpful.
2. Improper Resting Time
Your body needs to rest for a certain amount of time between workouts to regenerate energy and allow for the proper gains. Without doing so, you can injure your body.
Stretching too far or too long can cause new problems for your muscles.
4. Never Stretch to the Point of Pain
This is the most important general rule regarding stretching. Instead, you should stretch to the point of slight discomfort.
Static Vs. Dynamic Stretches
Depending on the goal of your exercise and the intensity at which you will be performing it, you will either be doing static or dynamic stretching.
The goal of dynamic stretching is to activate the muscles that you will use during your workout. As such, dynamic stretches focus on movement. For example, doing a lunge with a twist awakens your leg, hip and core muscles muscles, preparing them for future activity.
There are other benefits to dynamic stretching, too. Moving while you stretch will improve your coordination, which is especially helpful if you are preparing for a sports game. Multiple studies have shown that doing dynamic stretching before working out or competing further enables increased performance, whether in general athleticism, running speed, or weight capacity.
Contrary to popular belief, static stretches are best left for after the workout. A static stretch prior to the end of your routine will allow your body to cool down properly. Performing static stretches on “cold muscles”, or muscles that have not been properly warmed up, will only harm the body
To perform positive static stretches, simply place your muscles in positions that are straining yet comfortable. For optimal benefits, you must extend beyond your standard range of motion. For example, stretching your hands to your feet, or your arm to your shoulder are both examples of static stretches. During these stretches, it’s best to take deep, relaxing breaths. Repeat these stretches 3-5 times, for 10-30 seconds.
Not only will this help to relax your muscles, it will also lower tension and return them to their previous state of comfort. Fortunately, static stretching does not require the energy that the workout itself or dynamic stretching require.
Regularly implementing a static stretch routine will help your body to re-enter a state of rest. Stretching is essential for any healthy and ultimately beneficial workout routine. However, it’s important to understand the various types of stretching, and your own limitations. For assistance in determining the best workout routine for you, contact us.