The Importance of Stretching
Are you sitting down right now? When was the last time you stood up? Better yet, when was the last time you stood up and stretched?
While stretching is a pivotal part of any training program, it is often a component that goes overlooked. Stretching falls by the wayside when people are strapped for time, or when they’re unsure of how or what to stretch properly, or when they aren’t educated on it’s importance. So read on, and discover the many reasons why stretching can’t be missed!
Whether it’s driving, being behind a desk all day at work, or watching Netflix, we live in a world that involves a lot of sitting. This alone is reason to encourage you to stretch, since all that sitting can lead to tight hips, back problems, and poor posture.Tight muscles are at the source of these muscle imbalances, and a stretching routine will help correct such imbalances. Stretching also maintains a healthy range of motion through the joints. Without this, the body is susceptible to discomfort, injury, poor performance, and decreased functionality.
Every time you engage a muscle it contracts. These contractions occur not only when you’re working out, but also as you move through day to day tasks. Over time, these repeated contractions can shorten and tighten muscles , possibly leading to imbalances (like those mentioned above), decreased range of motion, poor posture, or injuries. Dynamic stretching before workouts also helps warm and prepare muscles to move through range required for the exercises to follow. Dynamic stretches include things like leg swings and arm circles, which keep the body moving.
Decreased Muscle Soreness
That shortening and tightening mentioned above is also partly to blame for the muscle soreness you feel after a hard workout. Ensuring that the muscles get a good stretch after a workout helps to loosen them and allows them to relax. Muscles that are tight for long periods of time can cut off their own circulation, resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients.
Many of our daily activities involve only the forward plane of motion, meaning that we are always walking forward, looking forward, and having our hands and arms pulled forward through actions like driving, typing, and texting. All this forward motion can pull on our necks, round our shoulders, and lead to back pain. These muscle imbalances can be improved with an appropriate stretching program, or avoided altogether if stretching occurs proactively.
Working out places a strain on your body. While this is a positive strain that leads to improvements and adaptations for increased performance and strength, it is important to simultaneously reward your body with a recovery activity like stretching. This helps to calm the central nervous system post workout and reduces the tension held in tight muscles.
Muscled that are flexible and able to move through a full range of motion allow you to develop greater strength over someone suffering from tight muscles. This improved strength enhances athletic skills skills such as sprinting, jumping, and making quick direction changes.
When working with clients one-on-one, it’s easy for trainers to ensure that a proper stretching routine is included in each training session (and better yet, we’re often performing assisted stretches, meaning less work and more relaxation for you!). But for those gym-goers who workout solo or duck out of classes before stretching is completed, hopefully this list will serve as encouragement to prioritize time to stretch after every workout!