Stretching before and after exercise is always a confusing component in a workout regimen. When improving our bodies, we always work to become stronger, leaner and curvier. This plan often leaves out one of the key components in overall physical fitness: flexibility. Poor flexibility leads to a limited range of motion, which often leads to inefficient workouts and possible injuries. However, knowing when and how to stretch before and after a workout is just as important as stretching.
When to Perform Stretches
Myth: Perform stretches before a warm up.
Fact: Though stretching should be part of warming up, the muscles must be warmed before flexibility exercises. Perform light cardiovascular exercise for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching to prepare your muscles for activity.
The best type of stretching to perform before your workout is dynamic stretching. This is stretching that involves movement of the muscles. Dynamic stretching includes arm circles, weightless walking lunges, side bends and trunk rotations.
Stretching to Prevent Injury
Myth: Static stretching prevents injury.
Fact: Performing static stretches before a workout will not properly prepare your muscles for activity. Static stretching should only be performed after exercise to prepare your muscles for recovery.
In order to reduce the risk of injury during exercise, you must properly warm up with a light jog or brisk walk followed by dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching not only increases your range of motion for exercise, but also mentally prepares you for the activity soon to be performed.
Who Benefits from Stretching?
Myth: Flexibility is only necessary in competitive athletes.
Fact: Everyone can benefit from flexibility. Good flexibility improves posture. Depending upon the type of work we perform, our daily activities can cause tightening in areas that affect posture. Poor posture can lead to pain and discomfort, often resulting in time at the chiropractor or doctor’s office.
Flexibility also improves performance in the gym. Increased range of motion allows us to perform better by improving our agility and speed. This also translates well for runners. More flexibility in the hip flexors and quads, equals a more efficient stride.
Necessity of Stretching before and after Exercise
Myth: It’s only necessary to stretch before a workout.
Fact: There are two important components in flexibility: dynamic flexibility and static flexibility. Dynamic flexibility is our range of motion on a two-planar field. This improves your speed and ability to react to a motion. An example of dynamic flexibility would be kicking or taking off during a sprint.
Static flexibility is our range without considering speed. Static flexibility is measured on a single-planar field to show range of motion against an external force. An example of static flexibility would be how long and how far a hamstring stretch can be held.
Dynamic flexibility is worked on before and during performance, while static flexibility is worked on after performance as a part of a post-workout recovery. Both are equally important to overall flexibility. Therefore, a warm up and cool down should incorporate flexibility training.