I have noticed so many individuals who jumpstart on treadmill or crosstrainer and start doing their workout without giving a least importance to stretching. Even if they do, they barely spend 5 minutes on stretching just one muscle group and leave. Don’t you think that stretching always takes a back seat in your exercise routine ?
Another thing that wanders in the mind of every fitness enthusiast is – whether should I stretch before or after the exercise ? I would suggest, whatever fitness goal you have, Stretching should be integral part of your regime as it conditions the body, both pre and post workout. Now the main concern is to tell you which stretching should be done before or appropriate for the warm-up and what should be done to cool down. But before going further, I would like you to have a brief look on benefits of stretching.
BENEFITS OF STRETCHING
Good stretching increases the blood circulation to the muscles and joints which in turn brings nutrients to your cells, removes waste byproducts in the muscle tissue and can help protect you against a host of illnesses, from diabetes to cardiovascular diseases.
INCREASES FLEXIBILITY AND RANGE OF MOTION
Flexibility decreases as you get older but you can regain and maintain it by doing proper stretching. If you make stretching a part of your exercise routine, your various tasks of daily living like lifting anything up from the floor or bending to tie your shoes etc. becomes much easier and less tiring.
Chronically tense and tight muscle contribute to poor posture which in turn not only diminishes our ADLs but also the functioning of our internal organs. Stretching will keep our body in better alignment, can minimize discomfort and reduces pain.
RELAXATION AND STRESS RELIEF
Stretching, if done properly, relaxes tense and tight muscles that often accompany stress. The feeling of relaxation brings a sense of well being and relief from tension.
Balance and coordination skills are required for everyday tasks. Proper stretching will improve your balance and make you less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older.
Stretching reduces the risk of back problems and muscular soreness. Prevent joint and muscle strains: a strong pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong unstretched muscle.
It reduces the severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea).
Although there are many different ways of Stretching, they can all be grouped into one of two categories : DYNAMIC STRETCHING and STATIC STRETCHING
DYNAMIC STRETCHING (PRE-WORKOUT)
Dynamic stretching means “Stretching as you are moving”. Dynamic stretches are a form of stretching, focussing on continuous movements to bring the muscle into a stretch – they are not held. It should be done before workout which allows you to get a good warm-up.
To get flexibility in your joints and fire up the muscles that you are going to use in your workout, you need to do mobility and activation drills. So it is always better to start with full body warm-up, whether you are doing lower or upper body training. The main idea of warm-up is to prepare your muscles by increasing the core temperature and Dynamic Stretches help in achieving this as in this body moves continuously, even while stretching.
VIDEO demonstrating pre-workout stretching exercises :
STATIC STRETCHING (POST WORKOUT)
As the name implies, it requires no movement. Static Stretching is used to stretch muscle while the body is at rest. It is the form of flexibility training that elongates the muscle by holding the stretch for a particular period of time while in a specific stretch position.
This stretching should be performed at the end of a workout to help the body cool down and prevent the muscle from tightening up. 30 seconds is the minimum duration to get the benefits of stretching.
VIDEO demonstrating post-workout stretching exercises :
I am not asking you to completely follow each and everything the way they have shown in the video. Infact I want you to take it as a refrence and do only what you think is appropriate for your workout. In all the stretchings, breathe easily and avoid the tendency to hold your breath.
We have been told this from a very long time that Static stretching was the correct way to loosen up your muscle prior to any training or competition. No doubt, it may loosen off the muscle but muscle will actually be less elastic as it drop the muscles’ core temperature. However, we are now aware of the use of Dynamic stretching and this is considered to be the best and beneficial way to warm up before indulging in any exercise regime. A workout without Dynamic stretch can potentially inhibit your performance and does not fully prepare the muscle for the task. Static stretching on the other hand is more appropriate for the cool down.
AVOID stretching if –
• there has been a recent bone fracture, sprain or strain.
• the range of motion is in some way limited.
• the joint is inflamed or infected.
• if you have signs of osteoporosis.
• you experience pain when the joint is moved or the muscle is stretched.
• you are suffering from certain diseases of the skin or blood.
All these pre and post-workout stretchings will take 5-10 minutes of yours. This will not only dramatically reduces your risk of injury but also lowers the time it takes to recover from the workouts, allowing you to workout harder. Next time, you hit the gym or go for a jog or indulge in any sort of sports, don’t forget to STRETCH.
Believe me, your body will thank you for it !!