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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Important Benefits of Stretching Before, After, and During a Workout

15 Important Benefits of Stretching Before, After, and During a Workout

Many people don’t really understand the benefits of stretching. For the most part, they stretch either once when they have completed their exercise routine, or stretching may occur just before getting started with an exercise. If you’ve ever wondered what the optimal time to stretch is —before, during, or after a workout—you’re not alone. It can be confusing to know when is best.

In this article, I’ll outline the benefits of stretching, and how and when you should go about incorporating stretching into your routine.

Before we tackle the benefits of stretching, let’s first learn about the basics.

Types of Stretching

Stretching is a way to keep your body open and access a range of motion that is more free and fluid. It’s an important aspect of exercise, giving the body space and flexibility to safely complete movements, while also help decrease the risk of injury and sore muscles

There are a few different types of stretching. Some stretching styles will be more beneficial at specific points of exercise.[1]

Static

Done during and after workouts, this is a longer held stretch where the body stays still in the stretching pose.

Dynamic

This type of stretching is done before and during workouts. It requires you to move through stretches repeatedly in a fluid motion.

Passive

This type of stretching is done after working out and requires assistance from bodyweight, equipment, or other props, so that your body relaxes and the gravity/equipment does the work.

Active

This type of stretching is done before, during and after a workout and involves contracting the opposing muscle to the area you are relaxing into the stretch.

How to Stretch Safely

Be sure that you are not completely cold before you stretch. If it’s a pre-workout stretch, then shake your body out a bit to get some warmth generating through your limbs before you stretch them.

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Hold each stretch (if it is static) for at least 30 seconds. Give your body time to accept the length. This is much safer for your tissues.

Stay at your edge. If you push too hard and feel pain, you’re doing the body damage rather than good. Back off to about 80%.

Benefits of Stretching

Now that you understand the basics, let’s go through the benefits of stretching, giving you a holistic view of when to implement stretching into your exercise regime.

Stretching Before Exercise

Starting off your workout with opening up your body is great for being able to access more range of motion in your athletic performance. Here are several reasons to stretch before exercise.

1. Prevent Injury

When you elongate your muscles through stretching, you reduce the risk of ripping and tearing muscle fibers and tissues. This can happen as a result of pushing the body too soon. If you go straight into exercise without having warmed up or moved at all, the areas that are still tense and/or stuck are the most susceptible to injury.

2. Get Fresh Oxygen Flow

Lack of oxygen flow can hinder your performance, as well as lead to serious injury within your joints. Pains, aches and tension can be felt when you begin to exercise if these areas haven’t been supplied with the oxygenated blood. Stretching encourages flow of fresh oxygen through your bloodstream to the rest of the body, not only relieving pain and reducing injury, but aiding in your movement performance. [2]

3. Reduce Fatigue

You’ll feel more able to withstand longer exercise sessions when you stretch before a workout, as you’ll be less likely to experience fatigue in your muscles. Stretching awakens the areas that need a more time and encouragement to wake up, so that they can efficiently take you through longer workouts.

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4. Increases Energy and Motivation

Blood accumulates in muscles that haven’t been used or lengthened. As mentioned above, in revitalizing the circulation to the muscles, you’ll feel a surge in energy levels. The blood also flows through to the brain (especially if you are stretching through your back and spine) so that you have increased concentration levels, giving inspiration to actually begin a workout.

5. Improve Performance

This one ties in all of the above benefits of stretching before a workout. You’ll have fresh oxygen for your body, reduce risk of injury, and boost your energy while reducing fatigue; this will overall improve your performance of whatever exercise you are doing, whether it’s cardio or strength.

Stretching During Exercise

Thanks to advances in functional understanding of how the body moves, fitness experts are proposing that you should be taking stretch-breaks during your exercise session. Modern fitness trainers will tell you this, as the benefits of stretching are being taught more widespread now in any good personal training course .

Basically, when you work one portion of the body to burn out, you take some moments to stretch this area, and then move on to another set, or onto another area of the body.

6. Increase Coordination

This is particularly beneficial for those who are strength training. Stretching when the muscle is tired or at burnout is a way to re-establish the pathways of your mind to muscle, so you feel more coordinated, and can freshen up your technique to keep your movements safe for the rest of the workout.

7. Get an Energy Boost

Just as you deliver fresh oxygen[3] and wake up your body before your workout, it’s valuable to do this mid-workout as well. You’ll stay energised, and then re-energize when you need it to get through the hard moments.

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8. Better Body Awareness

This not only prevents injury, but also helps you gauge your energy and fatigue levels to assess whether you need to ramp up your routine, or to give your body a rest if performance is lagging . Taking a moment to stretch gives you time to feel into your body, notice your heart rate, where you feel fatigue or tension, and allows you to then continue in a smart way. It’s a ‘stop, stretch, assess’ situation. It’ll help you when you try to get fit.

9. Reduce Lactic Acid Build Up

Especially when your exercise is intense strength training or high intensity interval training sessions, lactic acid will most definitely be felt in the body. Stretching helps to eliminate it from the system. Fatigue and pain may come in due to lactic acid build up, which can hinder your performance the rest of the workout. Stretching relaxes the muscles and help to dissolve accumulated lactic acid.

10. Deepen Body Movement

By elongating the muscles and reducing tight areas in the connective tissue through stretching, your body will have more movement freedom. If you’re doing repetitive or strength training exercises, this constricts the muscles as you work, so when you switch to a new exercise, it’s best to recreate length to perform the movements. For example, if you’re doing lunges, then take a quad and hamstring stretch before moving on to a squat. That way, your squat will be deeper with better form.

Stretching After Exercise

Sure, it would be nice if we could just lay down and be done with the workout when we’ve finished, but research shows that those who don’t take time to stretch post-workout will pay for it later, with sore and stiff muscles and more risk for injury.[4]

11. Immediate Muscle Repair

The improved circulation of blood that occurs through stretching allows the muscles to relax and receive this oxygen to repair straight away.

As the heart rate lowers after exercise, you give your body time to actually receive blood flow, which begins the recovery process much faster than if you just stopped without stretching.

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12. Create More Flexibility

Having a more flexible body not only allows you to get into some interesting yoga shapes, but also reduces muscle tension. After a few weeks of regular post-workout stretching, you’ll already notice a difference in your flexibility.

Holding more deep, static stretches the end of your workout will give you access to more length in many areas of your body—more than what you would have reached pre or mid-exercise.

13. Protect Your Joints

Your joints are surrounded by connective tissue and have muscles attachments. When you practice moving through your range of motion around your joints (think knees, hips, and shoulders), then you’re reducing tension and stuck-ness around those areas. This reduces pressure on joints and allows them to move more freely. Post-workout stretching gives those joints some love while your body is still warm. [5]

14. Reduce Risk of Cramping

When you eliminate lactic acid build up through stretching, you are also relaxing the muscles and letting energy, body fluids and blood to flow through without getting ‘stuck’ anywhere, which often causes cramping.

Dehydration can also be a factor in post-workout cramping, so we suggest sipping on some water while you stretch.

15. Cool Down Your Body

Improved circulation means a lower heart rate, gradually getting back to a resting rate. You bring your body back to balance at a slow pace with stretching, which offers your body and mind a sense of patience, mindfulness and relaxation after your workout.

Now you have every reason to stretch at the beginning, in the middle and right at the end of your workouts—so go ahead and get stretching. Your body will thank you!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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Nurse, Ninja Mom, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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