Stretching before a workout prepares our muscles for the work to come and helps prevent strains. Stretching after a workout, when our muscles are warm and pliable, helps them recover and can improve our flexibility and range of motion over time.
While it may not seem exciting, stretching provides so many benefits to our fitness and wellbeing. We have to remember that even 10 or 15 minutes of stretching a few times a week can make a big difference. The extra effort is worth it for our health, performance, and safety. Let's make a promise to stretch more - our bodies will thank us.
Why Stretching Is Essential for Fitness and Healthy Living
We all know exercise is essential for our health and fitness, but stretching is just as important. As fitness enthusiasts ourselves, we've learned that stretching has so many benefits that it really can't be ignored.
- Stretching improves our range of motion and flexibility. Tight muscles limit our mobility, so stretching keeps our joints and muscles loose and limber. This allows us to exercise more efficiently and with less risk of injury.
- Stretching relieves tension and stress. Holding stretches helps relax our muscles and release built-up tension. This can help alleviate stress and anxiety, leaving us feeling calmer and more at ease.
- Stretching boosts circulation. When we stretch, it causes our muscles to contract and relax, which helps pump blood through our veins and arteries. Improved circulation means more oxygen is delivered to our cells and tissues, giving us more energy and alertness.
- Stretching enhances performance. With a greater range of motion and flexibility, we can push ourselves further during workouts. Our muscles are able to contract more powerfully and our movements become more fluid and coordinated. This means we can run faster, lift heavier weights, and gain more from all of our exercises.
- Stretching helps with recovery. Gentle stretching after a workout helps our muscles relax and recover. This reduces delayed onset muscle soreness, allowing us to heal faster so we can work out again sooner. Stretching is really a win-win, no matter how you look at it. Our health, fitness and quality of life absolutely depend on it.
Benefits of Stretching Before Exercise
We all know exercise is good for us, but did you know that stretching before and after a workout can make a big difference? As avid gym-goers, we’ve discovered some key benefits of stretching:
- Improved flexibility. Stretching helps loosen our muscles and tendons, increasing our range of motion. The more we stretch, the more flexible and supple we become.
- Better performance. Stretching prepares our bodies for exercise by raising our core temperature and increasing blood flow to our muscles. This means we can work out harder and longer. Studies show stretching before cardio or strength training can improve athletic performance by up to 16%.
- Decreased injury risk. Tight muscles are more prone to strains and tears. Stretching helps lengthen and warm up our muscles, reducing the chance of pulling or tearing them during exercise. Stretching also helps align our joints and improves posture, which can help prevent overuse injuries.
- Enhanced recovery. Light stretching after exercise helps ease muscle tightness caused by intense activity. This may reduce next-day muscle soreness and speed up recovery between workouts. Gentle yoga or pilates are great for active recovery.
- Improved circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to our muscles. Better circulation delivers more oxygen to our cells and helps remove waste products like lactic acid. This can boost our endurance and reduce fatigue during exercise.
So next time you hit the gym, don’t skip stretching. Take 10-15 minutes to warm up your muscles before exercise and stretch them back out afterwards. Your body will thank you for it!
Benefits of Stretching After Exercise
After an intense workout, our muscles can feel sore and tight. Gentle stretching helps relieve this discomfort and gets our muscles back to their normal length. Stretching increases blood flow to our muscles, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to aid in recovery. The increased circulation also helps remove waste products like lactic acid that build up during exercise and cause soreness.
Regular stretching, especially after a workout when our muscles are warm, helps improve our range of motion and flexibility over time. Tight, stiff muscles and joints can limit our mobility and increase the risk of injury. Stretching helps loosen our muscles and connective tissue so we can move more freely. Hip openers, hamstring stretches, and chest openers are some of our favorites for improving flexibility and range of motion.
Tight muscles can pull our body out of proper alignment and lead to poor posture. Stretching helps release muscle tension that contributes to slouching or hunching over. Back stretches, like cat-cow pose, help extend our spine and open up the chest. Hip flexor stretches release tightness in the front of the hips that can cause an excessive arch in the lower back. Stretching the muscles that support good posture helps us stand up straight and tall.
Exercise causes our body to release endorphins that improve our mood and act as natural painkillers. Stretching after a workout sustains this effect and provides additional stress relief. Deep breathing during stretching also helps shift our mind and body into a relaxed state. Gentle yoga or Tai Chi are especially helpful for unwinding after an intense workout. The focused, flowing movements calm the mind while stretching the body.
Stretching after exercise provides so many benefits for both our physical and mental health. Just 5 to 10 minutes of gentle stretching a few times a week can make a big difference in how you feel and move. Be sure to stretch while your muscles are still warm for the best results.
Best Stretches to Do Before Your Workout
We can’t stress enough how important it is to stretch before and after workouts. Stretching helps warm up our muscles and prevents injury, and also aids muscle recovery after exercise. Here are some of the best stretches we recommend doing before you start your workout.
Dynamic stretches involve controlled leg and arm movements to warm up your muscles. Some examples include leg swings, torso twists, and shoulder rolls. Start with some light cardio like marching in place to raise your heart rate, then do 10-15 reps of each dynamic stretch. These help increase your range of motion and flexibility.
Hip openers loosen your hips, glutes and lower back. Do seated hip openers like seated twist stretch, butterfly stretch or seated leg raises. You can also do standing hip openers such as standing hip flexor stretch or standing quad stretch. Hip tightness can lead to lower back pain, so hip openers are key.
Chest and shoulder stretches
Chest and shoulder stretches open up your chest, shoulders and upper back. Our favorites are the standing chest stretch, shoulder rolls and the cat-cow stretch on your hands and knees. Extend one arm overhead and use your other arm to gently pull the extended arm across your chest to open your pecs and shoulders.
Calf raises target your calves and ankle mobility. Stand up straight and lift your heels so you're on your tiptoes. Hold for a second, then lower back down. Repeat for 10-15 reps. You can do this with straight or bent knees. Calf tightness contributes to injuries, so calf raises help prepare your lower legs for activity.
Be sure to breathe steadily and fully as you stretch—never bounce or force a stretch. Stretch to the point of tension but not pain. Stretching before a workout will make your exercise routine feel easier and more productive. Happy stretching!
Best Stretches to Do After Your Workout
Stretch Your Major Muscle Groups
After finishing your workout, it’s important that we take time to stretch. Stretching helps our muscles recover and can help prevent soreness. Some of the major areas we want to focus on include:
- Our legs: Do some simple quad stretches, hamstring stretches and calf raises. Lie on your back and pull one knee at a time up to your chest. Or, sit with one leg extended, bend the other knee and place the sole of your bent leg against the inner thigh of your extended leg. Reach for your extended foot and hold.
- Our back: Do some simple seated twists, cat/cows and bridges. Slowly twist side to side while seated, being careful not to bounce. Get on your hands and knees, arch your back upward, then lower your back downward. Or, lie on your back with knees bent and lift your hips upward while squeezing your glutes and shoulder blades.
- Our shoulders: Arm stretches and shoulder rolls are easy and effective. Extend one arm overhead and use your other arm to gently pull it across your body. Or, slowly roll your shoulders in circles, forward and backward.
- Our core: Basic crunches and planks should be done after most workouts. Lie on your back with knees bent and hands behind your head. Curl your upper body forward to bring your chest up towards your hips. Or, support yourself on your forearms and toes and hold your body in a straight line for 30-90 seconds.
Be gentle and don’t bounce while stretching. Hold each stretch 15-30 seconds and don’t lock your joints. Breathe steadily and deeply as you stretch. Stretching after a workout helps our body transition from activity to rest and ensures we gain maximum benefits from all our hard work. Make it a habit and your body will thank you!
As you can see, stretching plays a vital role in any exercise routine. Our muscles and joints need proper warm-up and recovery to function at their best and avoid injury. Stretching before a workout prepares our bodies for activity and helps us get the most from our exercise. Stretching after provides much-needed relief and recovery. While it only takes a few minutes, the benefits of stretching last far beyond our workout. For overall health, flexibility, and performance, we encourage everyone to make stretching a consistent part of your routine. Our bodies will thank us for it.
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