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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
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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.

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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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Jane Dizon

Nurse, Ninja Mom, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer

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Published on July 23, 2021

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation
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Foam rollers are one of those pieces of equipment where if you do it right, they can provide you with a deep-tissue massage. They’re commonly cylinder-shaped and they push up against sore muscles while you lay on the floor.

Because foam rollers are such handy tools, there is a wide selection of foam rollers you can choose from. Depending on what kind of exercises you do, a foam roller can aid in relaxing different muscles in your body. Below, I picked out the best foam rollers available on the market depending on the types of exercises and needs that you have.

How I Picked the Best Foam Rollers

Before jumping into the list, here are the criteria that I used when putting together this list of best foam rollers.

  • Weight – Foam rollers, as their name suggests, are designed to be light enough for you to roll around without exerting effort.
  • Compact – Because you’re laying on the ground, you want to have plenty of space. As such, a roller should allow you to lay down and easily perform the exercises you need without too much issue.
  • High-density – The material should also be dense enough so that you won’t accidentally crush the roller under your own weight. The rollers on this list are very durable.

1. Best Overall: LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller

    From dealing with sports injuries to relieving tension points in your body post-workout, this premium high-density foam roller is the best. This foam roller is entirely made from molded polypropylene foam, which means that it has a high density and won’t be losing its shape for a very long time, even if you use it daily.

    Beyond that, it can also repel liquid so it won’t get soggy or wet if you’re particularly sweaty or you’re using the roller near water.

    It comes in three different sizes and can be used to assist your core, cover spinal stabilization, balance, re-educating your muscles, and boost stamina.

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    Pick up LuxFit’s foam roller here.

    2. Best Grid: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

      If you’re new to foam rollers, this one might be the best choice for you. The reason for that is that each purchase of these TriggerPoint GRID foam rollers comes with a free online instructional video. This video shows you the best practices and how to use a foam roller properly.

      As for the roller itself, the big benefit here is the overall design. It has a rigid hollow core, and the materials used to make this roller are rigid so it won’t be breaking down easily.

      Another aspect to it is its multi-dimensional surface, making it a go-to roller for masseuses to athletes. These rollers can also assist in oxygen flow and heal tissues.

      Pick up TriggerPoint’s foam roller here.

      3. Best for Physical Therapy: Rolling With It Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller

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        Even though this roller is fantastic for physical therapy, it can also be helpful for general use, particularly before you go to work out. By rolling in advance, you’re allowing your muscles to get warmed up for the exercises that you’re doing.

        This is big because when muscles are more relaxed, you’ll be able to extend the period of your workout. You’ll want to care about this if you normally do high-impact routines such as Crossfit, bodybuilding, or general weight training.

        Using this regularly is smart and unlike LuxFit’s roller, this one is eco-friendly and resists flaking and chipping.

        Buy Rolling With It Therapeutic’s foam roller here.

        4. Best Half Roller: OPTP PRO-ROLLER Soft Density Foam Roller

          While rollers are nice, they do have a tendency to slip and slide around. If you prefer to stay still and relax your muscles, OPTP’s half-roller will be a good fit. It’s highly durable with its cross-linked, closed-cell foam. Because of that, it has a perfect balance between softness and firmness.

          Beyond that, because it’s a half roller, you have the option between a flat surface or a rounded surface for versatility. If you’re looking for a softer roller, this one is a good option.

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          Buy OPTP’s foam roller here.

          5. Best Stick: Tiger Tail Massage Stick

          While your standard rollers are great for back rolling, they’re only able to cover large areas of muscles. This becomes an issue if you’re looking to relieve tension to smaller muscles or in specific areas.

          This is where massage sticks are able to shine as they pinpoint specific areas in your body. Out of the various massage sticks we’ve checked, the one from Tiger Tail is ideal. It has three size options to pick from (11-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch) letting you have good flexibility in what you’re looking for.

          The Tiger Tail is made from a high-quality, non-absorbent, and non-deteriorating closed-cell foam. This ensures that it won’t hurt your skin when using it, making cleaning easier, too. It’s also ergonomically designed so that your hands won’t tire out when using it.

          Buy Tiger Tail’s massage stick here.

          6. Best for Cyclists: Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release

            While it’s no foam roller, lacrosse balls are excellent ways to relieve tension in areas where foam rollers are awkward to reach, such as shoulders, glutes, and neck. All in all, they’re a great addition to your muscle relaxation routine.

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            Every purchase of these lacrosse balls provides you with two balls to use. Through these durable balls, you’ll be able to reach smaller muscle groups easier than you could with any typical foam roller.

            Purchase Kieba’s massage lacrosse balls here.

            7. Best for Shoulders: RumbleRoller Beastie Bar and Stands

              Lastly, if you’re looking for a great way to relax your shoulders, this product from RumbleRoller is ideal. The thing with foam rollers is that reaching your shoulders with these rollers can be awkward. Paired up with shoulders tend to carry a lot of stress, we’re more likely to experience muscle pain in that area.

              Instead of pulling out your roller, this option could be significantly better. This wand features two “Beasties,” which are spiky foam massage balls. Similar to Lacrosse balls, these are able to target small pressure points on your body—in this case, your shoulders and neck.

              It comes with stands that are detachable so you can use just the ball to relieve various points over your body too if need be. Each of the balls is durable and firm so you shouldn’t have issues in relieving muscle pain.

              Buy RumbleRoller’s beastie bar here.

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              Final Thoughts

              You don’t need to be constantly seeing a masseuse whenever you experience muscle pain. In many cases, it’s simply that you put your body through a bit too much stress. Whether it’s from your posture or from working out, foam rollers and other physical therapy tools can help you in dealing with those aches and pains. Just try out a few products from this list of the best foam rollers out there, and choose one that best fits your needs.

              Featured photo credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett via unsplash.com

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