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Last Updated on August 26, 2018

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.

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

More by this author

Jane Dizon

Nurse, Ninja Mom, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

When we are still children, our thoughts seem to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

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Just imagine then how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power! We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities. We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb. We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits. We’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head.

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

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So…how exactly are we to achieve that?

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

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2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty. If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what is really important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

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4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking. It is like watching a DVD that saddens and frustrates you, completely pulling you down. Eject that old DVD, throw it away and insert a new, better, more hopeful one instead.

So, instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember: You are (or will become) what you think you are. This is reason enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

Featured photo credit: Kyaw Tun via unsplash.com

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