If you’re tempted to skip the stretching part in your workout routine as you think it’s only for athletes or yoga lovers, then you may want to rethink your strategy.
Stretching is an integral part of fitness as it keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy, allowing us to maintain a range of motion in our joints. Without it, the joints can become stiff, weak, unable to extend, and this is when your risk of injury increases, resulting in strains, muscle damage, and joint pain.
Where to Begin
Okay, so it’s clear that stretching isn’t only for athletes or gymnasts. The main goal with stretching is to prepare your body for vigorous activity or to help it recover. You don’t have to stretch every muscle in your body every day, mainly the areas that are critical for mobility such as your calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, pelvis, and the front of your thighs/quadriceps. Your shoulders, neck and lower back are also important areas to benefit from daily stretching.
You may have heard about two types of stretching techniques called Static Stretching and Dynamic Stretching, and the main difference between them is in when and how you perform them.
This stretch is similar to its name, a static movement. This stretch technique involves stretching your muscles just to the point where you feel discomfort. An example would be where you sit on the floor, legs straight out and apart, with the goal to lean forward and touch your toes. You would hold this type of stretch for a long period of time (preferably 15-30 sec. to get the full benefit of the stretch) and repeat again two or three times more.
Static stretches are safe and effective, when done properly, and can improve your overall flexibility.
This type of stretching technique is often used by the athlete, and involves moving your joints and muscles through a range of full motions instead of holding a stretch for a long period of time. Dynamic stretches wake up your nervous system by sending signals from your brain to your muscles, they help improve flexibility and prevent the body from injury.
Movements are controlled and are meant to mimic different movements you would perform in a specific sport or athletic event. Some examples of dynamic stretches are high knee marching or walking lunges. A lot of the movements in a yoga flow are dynamic stretches.
Pre-Workout or Post Workout?
There is plenty of debate on when to perform these two types of stretches, pre-workout or post workout. Some believe it’s best to do static stretches after an activity as your muscles are still warm and can help relieve tension and soreness in the muscle by elongating the muscle and increasing blood circulation.
Various studies show dynamic stretches to be most effective before an activity or event because it allows the body to prepare for specific athletic movements. It elevates the heart rate and increases body temperature, which helps your muscles work more efficiently.