There is no doubt that a majority of the population discounts the value of stretching and flexibility. Many are dissuaded from adding stretching to a daily workout routine, as it does not provide a flatter abdomen or a stronger heart. Nevertheless, stretching after physical activity can actually help you achieve your fitness goals more efficiently.
Dynamic exercise and strength training require stable muscles that work smoothly. It is in the evaluation of this key requirement that the benefits of stretching can be seen in a greater light. Exercise is known to cause muscle shortening. Routine stretching counteracts this process, promoting flexibility in your muscles and joints to move through their full range of motion.
Warmed-up muscles are more likely to control the stresses placed upon them that are caused by exercise. Mild stretching is recommended, especially prior to robust exertion of the muscles. Stretching without proper technique tends to be less effective and possibly damaging if an injury ensues. It is important to be careful while stretching, as the knees and lower back are susceptible to injury.
The Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services published a study in 2010 examining the impact stretching has on exercise-related injuries. It was found that when stretching was completed before and after exercise, there was no evident reduction in the risk for all injuries, but possibly a reduction in certain types of injuries. The researchers also concluded that regular stretching reduced the risk of soreness post exercise.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association published a study in 2011 proposing that measured flexibility was greater after both static stretching and dynamic stretching, but there was no improvement when participants did not stretch. This is indicative of stretching’s benefit to flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to properly move through their full range of motion.
There are several ways to get the most out of your stretching post-workout. The University of Rochester Medical Center has outlined several recommendations for incorporating stretching after your exercise routine.
- Stretching should be undertaken at least 2-3 times per week.
- All muscles groups that will be used in your exercise routine should be stretched.
- Each muscle group should be stretched individually and slowly. Do not bounce during the stretch or make abrupt movements. You should focus on breathing and exhaling as you move further into the stretch. Any stretch position should be held no longer than 20-30 seconds, in 3 to 5 repetition cycles.
- Holding onto a chair or wall during standing stretches will help you stabilize. This may prevent the occurrence of any injury.
- Stretching should not be painful, so stop if you feel pain. If you stretch the wrong way, there is a possibility that you can cause small tears in your muscles, which can increase in size during the workout.
Incorporation of frequent and routine stretching into your pre- and post-workout can be very beneficial to your overall flexibility. This will also help you accomplish your fitness goals. With your fitness goals being accomplished faster without injury, you will be on a faster track to being a healthier person. However, if you are experiencing steady pain during or after stretching, it is essential that you talk to a qualified fitness professional.
Written by Melissa Pillote
Jamtvedt, G., Herbert, R.D., Flottorp, S., Odgaard-Jensen, J., Havelsrud, K., Barratt, A., Mathieu, E., Burls, A., Oxman, A.D. (2010). A pragmatic randomized trial of stretching before and after physical activity to prevent injury and soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine,44, pp. 1002-1009. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19525241
Chamerlain, K. When Exercising, Don’t Skip Stretching. Retrieved from http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=2206
Perrier, E.T., Pavol, M.J., Hoffman, M.A. (2011). The Acute Effects of a Warm-Up Including Static or Dynamic Stretching on Countermovement Jump Height, Reaction Time, and Flexibility. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research,25(7), pp. 1925-1931. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21701282