You have often heard that you should stretch as a part of your exercise routine. But many of us don’t fully understand the benefits (the why) of stretching, if it’s best to stretch before or after a workout (the when) or how to safely stretch. Murfreesboro Athletic Club shares insights to help us get on the right track!
The benefits of stretching are incredible. Highlights include:
- Improved flexibility and range of motion. Stretching keeps your joints and muscles from feeling stiff or tight. Regular and consistent stretching will help you in any activity, even in regular daily life, especially as you age.
- Improved performance. Stretching can improve and increase sports performance for some activities.
- Lower injury risk. Time and again, research has proven that proper stretching can decrease the risk of injury.
When Should You Stretch?
One of the biggest questions with stretching is when it should be done…before or after a workout? Truthfully, stretching can be done almost any time and in any place. Depending on your activity, stretching could give different or more beneficial results when done before or after…and sometimes both.
Some intense, short burst activities such as sprinting and other track and field events are performed better without stretching. Consider instead a dynamic warmup, where you perform movements similar to the activity, starting slowly and gradually increasing speed and intensity as your body warms up.
Regardless of whether you stretch before or after a workout, remember, stretching is not the same as a warmup. Stretching while your muscles are cold could actually cause injury. Walk, jog or cycle at a low intensity, low speed for 5-10 minutes to stimulate blood flow and warm up the muscles before stretching.
How Should You Stretch?
Stretching isn’t just a two-minute activity to do right before you work out. It takes some time to stretch properly. If you want to maximize and maintain the benefits, commit to regularly stretching two to three times per week.
When you’re stretching, here are a few things to focus on:
- Symmetry. Instead of aiming to be as flexible as the swimmers or gymnasts in the Olympics, strive for symmetry. This means you’re as flexible on one side as the other. This can protect you from injury.
- Hold. Hold your stretch for about 30 seconds, 60 if it’s a problem area. Don’t bounce. Use smooth, controlled movements, whether a static hold or a mind-body exercise.
- Movement. Stretching with movement, such as motions found in the practices of yoga and tai chi, may also improve flexibility.
Still have questions about stretching? We’ve got you covered. Set up an appointment with a personal trainer to learn how to safely and effectively stretch. Trainers offer individualized coaching that is customized to your fitness level, sport and goals. Reach out to Murfreesboro Athletic Club at 615-396-0999 for more information about your options regarding stretching and wellness.