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When it comes to fitness, most people tend to focus on strength training and cardio. If you were to ask them about flexibility training, they’d probably think of yoga. As great as yoga is, flexibility training or stretching is more than just yoga. Stretching after a workout is crucial, as it helps reduce the chance of injury and can contribute to decreasing muscle soreness and increases your range of motion. Dynamic stretching before a workout increases the flow of blood to the muscles and helps warm you up.
Stretching should be considered a mandatory part of every workout. Make time for it. If you’re doing a 30-minute workout and have time for another set or five more minutes on the treadmill, take that time to stretch instead. It will complement the hard work you just did, and your body will thank you for it.
Benefits of Stretching
Reduces Risk of Injury
Potential to reduce injury by preparing muscles through dynamic stretching before a workout. Stretching helps your joints move through their entire range of motion and enables your muscles to work most efficiently.
Reduces Muscle Soreness
stretching has the potential to reduce muscle soreness by increasing the blood and nutrient supply to muscles.
Increases Range of Motion/Improves Flexibility
Stretching elongates the muscles and increases their range of motion, along with the joint range of motion.
Stretching lengthens tight muscles by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas the body away from their intended position. Rotational exercises throughout the day or dynamic stretching of the back and shoulders after sitting in front of the computer all day can help counteract hunched shoulders and back pain.
The daily use of muscles can cause them to get tight, especially repetitive actions such as carrying a heavy purse or bag. This repetitive action can cause tightness on the side of the body where you usually carry your bag, leading to an imbalance. Stretching can help your body feel more balanced by alleviating muscle tightness.
Calms the Mind/Releases Tension
Stretching can give your body a chance to recharge by calming the mind and providing a mental break. It can also reduce stress by eliminating knots and tight spots. When the connective tissue releases, you feel less stressed.
Types of Stretching
All stretching is either static or dynamic and active or passive. Any other techniques and terms used are just variations of these four types of stretches.
Static stretching involves pushing a muscle to its outer range until you can feel a stretch and holding this stretch for at least 20 seconds. When the muscle is under tension, a stretch reflex causes muscle relaxation.
Dynamic stretching, which has become preferred over ballistic stretching, involves taking a muscle through its entire range of motion, by starting with a small movement and gradually increasing both movement range and speed. I recommend performing at least five repetitions of each dynamic stretch.
Passive stretching means you’re using some outside assistance to help you stretch. Body weight, a strap/band, leverage, gravity, another person, or other stretching devices could all be used to assist with passive stretching.
Active stretching means you’re stretching a muscle without any outside assistance by actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching. During active stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch.
Foam rolling, also known as myofascial release, involves using a foam roller to massage your muscles. It can release fascia buildup, which often leads to tight, sore muscles, and can work out knots and tight spots caused by stress. Perform foam rolling by using small, continuous back-and-forth movements performed over a small area for 30 to 60 seconds. An individual’s pain tolerance will determine the duration and how much pressure to apply to the target muscle.
The equipment below is optional, but not needed to complete any of the stretches I explain in this post. Click the link to view or purchase equipment.
- Foam Roller
- Resistance Band or Yoga Strap
- Yoga Blocks
- Wall or Chair (you should already have both of these in your home)
Essential Post-Workout Stretches
Pull elbow across and down until you feel a gentle stretch; switch arms and repeat.
Grab arm above the elbow and pull across chest until you feel a gentle stretch, keep elbow parallel to ground; switch arms and repeat.
Bend over and clasp your hands behind you, lift arms until you feel a gentle stretch.
Hold your hands in front of you with palms facing out; push out arms until you feel a gentle stretch.
Abs and Lower Back
Lay down on your stomach and use your arms to push your upper body up until you feel a gentle stretch.
Keep back straight and lunge forward on the front leg until you feel a gentle stretch; switch legs and repeat.
Push down with elbows on knees until you feel a gentle stretch, keep back straight.
Glute and Lumbar Rotation
Cross one leg over the other and then use your hand or elbow to push knee in, while twisting torso, until you feel a gentle stretch; switch legs and repeat.
Stand straight and reach behind you to grab your foot until you feel a gentle stretch; switch legs and repeat.
Stretch both legs out in front of you and reach for your toes until you feel a gentle stretch.
Bend front leg, keep rear leg straight and heel down, feet facing forward, continue sliding foot backward until you feel a gentle stretch; switch legs and repeat.
For static stretching, you should hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds, although 30 seconds is preferable. It’s beneficial to break this up into two 15 second sets and go through all of the stretches twice. If you’re short on time, don’t skip stretching, instead just focus on the muscles that you worked. Make sure that you never bounce while stretching and that you push yourself just to the point of feeling it, never to the point of pain, as that could lead to injury. The risk of injury is why static stretching before a workout isn’t a good idea because cold muscles are more likely to tear. Dynamice stretching, however, is an excellent way to prepare muscles for the activity about to be performed.
Do you stretch after every workout?