Most of us have adopted some form of routine by which we get through the day. I invite you to consider aspects of your work routine, morning routine, and fitness routine that you might typically do without thinking. In a similar self-reflection, I thought to myself about the first thing I do every morning: stretch. Before getting out of bed or brushing my teeth, I will twist my hips and head in opposite directions without thinking and stretch out before I’m fully awake. Similarly, it is vital to incorporate stretching at the beginning of your fitness routine to energize the body, improve mobility, and prevent injury.
Stretching is commonly known as a practice that everyone knows they should do but can sometimes wiggle its way out of focus. Whether we are too eager to workout or have too much on our mind from a day’s work, we’ll sometimes skip over this essential part of getting our muscles ready. It is important to stretch before workouts because it increases flexibility, blood-flow, and workout quality. Stretching after a workout can reduce injury, speed up recovery, and help lactic acid dissipate, preventing soreness following your exercise routine. Research has proven that stretching before and after workouts guarantees overall improvement in your health journey.
How to Stretch Before and After Workouts
There are two types of stretching you can perform before your workout. Static stretches are the familiar act of extending a muscle as far as you can before you feel pain and holding it in place for about half a minute. Dynamic stretches on the other hand, are specific movements which stimulate your muscles in anticipation for activity. You can think of static stretches as improving flexibility, and dynamic stretches as improving blood-flow.
Chronic static stretching has been shown to improve the quality of exercise before and after your fitness routine. Some basic static stretches to do before a workout are the: Shoulder Stretch, Toe Touch, Samson Stretch, Butterfly Stretch, Quadriceps Stretch, Cobra Stretch, Knee to Chest, Side Bend, and Calf Stretch.
On the other hand, dynamic stretches are the essential warm up. They improve agility and activate your muscles, by kickstarting the process of sending oxygen through the blood. Some Dynamic stretches to do before a workout are: Squats, High Knees, Leg Swings, Lunges, Plank Walk-Outs, Arm Circles, Standing Toe Taps, Jumping Jacks, Butt Kicks, Hip Circles.
While free motion stretches are the basic essentials to incorporate in your routine, there are also other methods that can help. Alternate activities such as yoga could be fun ways to develop a stretching routine. There are a variety of products too which can be used to stretch specific muscles.
Developing A Stretching Routine
Overall, the stretches that you do before your workout will be pertinent to your training for the day. While there are a variety of stretches out there that are all beneficial, different people have different goals, capabilities, and needs. It is important to incorporate the stretching routine that works best for you! Stretching routines can be developed with the same habit-forming skills needed to create a workout routine. Think of stretching as an ad-on for your workout, something to supplement your training process and help you reap the complete benefits of fitness.
Another useful tool in a proper stretching routine are the Resistance Bands. Valor Fitness offers a wide range of options when it comes to stretching equipment. Not only can this equipment facilitate stretching before or after a workout, but it can assist you during a workout.
The Resistance Band Jelly Tube offers an unlimited stretching experience. It is light and portable but made from thermoplastic elastomer which can stretch up to three times its length. The rings make it ideal for stretching before or after a workout.
The RT Resistance Bands, and PRB Resistance are some of the other stretching products offered by Valor Fitness. These facilitate deeper stretching and can create a compound effect with your workout which builds muscle when under tension. Below, find some sample exercises which can be done with resistance bands.
Benefits of Stretching Before Workouts
There is a reason that a stretching routine is at focus. Studies have found that stretching before a specific event can prevent athletes from reaching their maximum performance. Conversely, routine stretching has been found to boost performance alone.
People who are unable to train traditionally can experience the precursors to gains which will allow them to transition to other exercises. Chronic before workout stretching will lead to the best results possible. A combination of dynamic and static stretches are suggested because stretching is optimized when the muscles are warm.
Benefits of Stretching After Workouts
It can also be beneficial to stretch the muscles that were trained the day before. Hopefully you’re incorporating stretching on top of your existing training. Stretching the muscles you trained the day before can relax the stressed muscles, and decrease second-day-soreness by about 5%.
Stretching regularly will make your muscles leaner and more flexible. It will reduce the amount of lactic acid in the body which builds up during your workout. This will ease the transition back into a resting state.
Other benefits include a reduction of back pain, which can be caused by muscle tightness. Much of the stress in the body that comes from being stationary during the day can be relieved through post-workout stretches. Overall, stretching after a workout is a great way to kickstart the recovery process.
Common Stretching Mistakes
Many of us learned how to stretch all the way back in grade school P.E., so a reminder of what not to do is in order.
- Forgetting to Breathe
Breathing during a stretch will increase the quality, and extension of your stretch.
- Stretching Past the Limit
Stretching should not be painful. While there may be some slight discomfort when reaching the maximum extension, it is important to keep in mind safety.
- Sacrificing Proper Form
Some complicated stretches are hard to do on the first try. It doesn’t hurt to have a partner help hold a leg in place while you’re just starting off.
- Stretching Hurriedly
Stretches should be held for a full 30 seconds and are most optimal when repeated. Going through every stretch in the book for five seconds a piece can defeat the purpose.
- Stretching Infrequently
As we covered earlier, chronic stretching is the key. If you never stretch and then suddenly do on a big day, it can actually inhibit performance.
Stretching the Story
In conclusion, stretching can boost range of motion, blood flow, and quality of exercise. Adding stretching to your routine will enable you to be the most physically fit and athletic version of yourself. It is important to incorporate stretching as a routine, because it is beneficial when done chronically instead of as a one-time effort on big training days. Static and Dynamic stretches are both valuable assets when preparing your body for a workout. Try to stretch before and after your workout for two weeks, and you should begin to feel the benefits of improved flexibility.