You’ve probably heard that it is important to stretch before, during and after your workout, but do you know why? While many people view stretching as a nuisance or a part of their workout that they can skip, the truth is it is vital to not only your workout itself, but also the results. If you want to get more out of your workout you will start incorporating stretching into your routine.
Improves Flexibility and Balance
Regular day to day activities can cause your muscles to get tight. This is especially true if you routinely carry heavy items, even a purse or briefcase – or children. If you do physical labor like construction work your muscles can get tight. Stress is a huge culprit! Stretching improves your flexibility and helps those tight muscles relax and lengthen. This, in turn, helps improve your balance as well as your range of motion.
Promotes Good Posture (and form)
As stretching pulls your body back into balance, you will notice that your posture improves. In turn, your form will improve as well. This is because as your muscles become tight they draw your body inward. That is especially true of the neck, shoulders, and back. The tighter the muscles are in those areas, the more slumped you will be because those muscles are shorter. Stretching lengthens those muscles and allows you to straighten your body to its proper position. Your posture improves as a result.
Helps Minimize Risk of Injury
When your muscles are warm and supple they are less likely to get injured while you are exercising. Tight muscles are injuries waiting to happen. When you are flexible it is a lot harder to hurt yourself as long as you don’t overdo the stretching itself.
Boosts Blood Supply to Muscles
When your muscles stretch, your body automatically sends a boost of blood and nutrients to those muscles. This can help reduce soreness while making your muscles ready to work. This is yet another way that stretching helps you avoid injury.
Increases your Energy
The burst of blood supply to your muscles also works to increase your alertness and your energy. This means that you actually feel better and more physically ready for your workout. It also helps you feel more positive about exercising.
There is a right way and a wrong way to stretch. Before you get started, make sure that you are in an area that is not too hot or too cold. You also want to make sure that it has an even surface that is clear of debris that could injure you if you sat on it. You also want to have something you can hold on to for balance.
Other tips for a good stretch include:
- Keep your elbows and knees soft. Locking your knees and elbows can cause serious injury.
- Don’t overdo it. Overstretching can cause tears and unnecessary injury.
- Avoid bouncing. Gentle pulsing is usually not bad, but hard bouncing as you stretch can cause you to overextend and injure your muscles.
- If you are holding an intense stretch, keep it under 15 seconds. If you hold it longer it could actually cause you to lose your flexibility.
- Avoid contracting the muscles you have just stretched. This is very counterproductive and can return the muscle to its former, tight state.
How about you? What are your favorite stretching benefits? What is your favorite stretch? Share in the comments below!