Why is it Beneficial to Stretch while working out?

Why is it Beneficial to Stretch while working out?

Why is it Beneficial to Stretch after a Workout?

Many weight trainers and fitness enthusiasts surprisingly skip stretching when working out. We can all admit that when quickly squeezing a workout into our schedule on a busy day, we, too, may have missed a few stretch sessions before or after our workout. 

It turns out that stretching before and after your workout is essential for preventing injuries and pain and straining; it also helps your body recover so that you may be less sore the next few days.

If you work out in the morning or after work, you have to rest or sit for an extended period; this leaves your muscles tight and unprepared for exercise. It's important not to damage your muscles from abrupt activity. Doing dynamic stretches before a workout can loosen your muscles and increase mobility.

Stretching after a workout is just as important. Post-workout stretches help move lactic acid out of your muscles and decrease soreness. Post-workout stretching has muscles regain their shape and improve your performance for your next workout.

Stretching before or after a workout? 

Stretching before and after a workout is both important. They both serve different purposes and consist of other movements. You typically should perform dynamic stretches before your workout and static stretches after your workout.

Dynamic Stretches (before)

Dynamic stretches are active movements that put your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. The goal is to increase muscle temperature and reduce stiffness to improve performance and prevent injury. When correctly performed, dynamic stretches can improve the speed and mobility of your workout. 

Here are a few examples of some dynamic stretches from this reliable source.

1. Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your toes pointed slightly out, engage your core, bend your knees and push your hips back as you squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Remember to keep your chest up. Hold your hands straight in front or clasp your hands in front — whatever is most comfortable.

2. High knees

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Maintaining a straight posture, lift one knee to your chest, rapidly switching to your other leg. If helpful, begin by jogging in place first. Engage your core as you switch from leg to leg at jogging or sprinting pace.

3. Leg swings

Standing straight and keeping your hips aligned, swing one leg forward and backwards in a single smooth movement. Switch sides and repeat to complete the set (10 swings/leg). You can use a wall, fence, or pole to maintain balance throughout the dynamic exercise. It is also helpful to start with light leg swings first and gradually extend your range of motion throughout the stretch.

4. Lunges

Start standing straight up. Engage your core and take a big step forward with your right leg, shifting your weight so your heel lands first. Then, lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and your right shin is vertical. Press into your right heel to drive yourself back to the starting position. Repeat for the left leg.

5. Plank walk-outs

Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Bending from your hips, reach down and place your hands flat on the floor in front of your feet. Next, shift your weight onto your hands and begin walking yourself forward until you form a straight line from your head to your heels. Engage your core and keep your hands directly under your shoulders. Hold for your desired rep length before walking backwards and returning to starting position.

6. Arm circles

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the side, parallel with the floor. Circle your arms forward using small, controlled movements. Gradually increase the size of the circles until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Then, reverse the direction of your circles.

7. Standing toe taps

Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Reach forward with your right arm. While keeping your legs straight, raise your right leg towards your right hand, tapping your right to with your hand. Lower your leg and repeat on the left side.

8. Jumping jacks

Begin standing straight with your legs together and arms flat at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and jump into the air, spreading your legs shoulder-width apart and stretching your arms out and over your head. Jump to return to starting position and repeat.

9. Butt kicks

Start standing straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your side. Bring the heel of one foot off the floor towards your glutes and raise the opposite hand towards your shoulder as if you were running. Then, rapidly switch to the other side. Remember to keep your shoulders back and core active throughout this dynamic stretch.

10. Hip circles

Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. While keeping your hands together in front of your stomach, pull your knee until it is parallel with the floor. Then, drag the knee back, opening up your hip. Return to starting position and repeat for the other side of your body. 

Static Stretches (after)

Static stretching involves stretches held for some time (10-60 sec). Unlike dynamic stretches, static stretches are still and do not involve fast movement. 

Static stretches after a workout help to gradually slow down the body. They also help return muscles to a more relaxed state, increasing flexibility and decreasing the risk of injury.

After your workout, you don’t have to stretch every muscle, but you should try the tight muscles from your training. While stretching, you should feel a slight pull and possibly a little discomfort, but no pain. If you can, hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. 

Here are a few examples of some static stretches from this reliable source.

1. Shoulder stretch
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your right arm across the front of your body at chest height. Using the crease of your left arm or hand, support your right arm. Stretch your shoulder and continue facing forward. Hold then repeat with your other side.

2. Toe touch
Stand straight with your feet slightly apart and toes pointing forward. Keeping your legs straight, bend from the hips and reach down toward your toes. Engage your core throughout this exercise and repeat.

3. Samson stretch
Begin by standing straight. While keeping your chest and core engaged, step forward with your right foot into a lunge position. Lower your left knee to the ground and extend the right knee forward. Then, clasp your hands together and push out, lifting your arms over your head. Hold then switch sides. Remember to keep your chest facing forward throughout this static stretch. 

4. Butterfly stretch
Start by sitting on the floor with your back straight and your knees bent. Drop your legs to your sides and bring the soles of your feet together. Grasping at your feet or ankles, slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight. Place your elbows on your thighs and press down gently for the stretch.

5. Quadriceps stretch
Stand straight with your legs together for the quad stretch, knees touching. While standing on one leg, raise your opposite foot using your hand towards your glutes. Hold then repeat, switching legs. You may use a chair or wall to hold yourself steady.

6. Cobra stretch
Begin lying flat with your abdomen on the ground and feet stretched behind you. Bring your hands next to your chest and engage the glutes and back muscles to curl the chest up away from the floor.

7. Knee to chest
Standing tall, lift your right knee toward your chest, using your hands to pull the knee towards your belly button. Hold then lower your knee, returning to the start position. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg. Remember to engage your core and keep your spine straight during this static stretch.

8. Cat stretch
The cat stretch and cow stretch work in tandem. For the cat stretch, begin with your hands and knees on the ground, keeping your spine relaxed and parallel to the floor. Then, round your spine outward and pull your hips forward, gently pulling your chin toward your chest. Hold. You may then move into the cow stretch.

9. Cow stretch
The cow and cat stretch are often combined. For cow stretch, begin with your hands and knees on the ground, keeping your spine relaxed and parallel to the ground. Then, press your chest forward and sink your belly toward the floor. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and look straight ahead. Hold before moving into the cat stretch. 

10. Side bend
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. While engaging your core, lift your hands over your head. Then, bend at your waist to the right and lean toward the floor. Pulling from your body, return to the starting position. Repeat for the other side. 

11. Calf stretch
Using a wall, stand with your right foot slightly in front of your left. Bend your knees slightly. While keeping your back knee straight and your heel on the ground, lean toward the wall. Hold, relax, and then repeat for your other leg.

This site offers health, fitness, and opinionative nutritional information and is only designed for educational purposes. It would help if you did not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The use of any information provided on this site is solely read at your own risk. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. 

Many of the topics in this blog are sourced from this article.

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