Stretching before and after a workout is a must. Not only will it warm up and cool down your muscles, it also improves your flexibility and reduces risk of injury to your joints and muscles. So make sure those 10 minutes you spend stretching are well utilized!
Experts believe that stretching exercises calm the mind and help alleviate stress. If you follow an extensive workout, stretching before and after are crucial for you. So make sure you make room for 10 minutes before and after your workout, to finish a whole body stretch. The end result will be a more flexible body where all joints are worked; all muscles are warmed up and geared towards a good workout session!
Why Should I Make Time to Stretch?
Ok, we know you barely manage to fit in 30 minutes of workout in your hectic routine, and don’t want to add another 10 minutes for just stretching. But without these 10 minutes, you could be heading down the road to disaster! Stretching exercises do 2 things:
One – Prevention of injury and sometimes even treatment of injury
Two – Increasing flexibility to be able to enhance athletic performance
Since stretching increase flexibility of muscles, ligaments and tendons it reduces risk to injury during workouts. As the muscles and tendons loosen up, they are less likely to experience wear and tear. It helps improve muscle recovery post a workout and enhances athletic performance. This is why most athletes depend so much on stretching, as stretching offers enhanced biomechanical efficiency. So can you really afford to skip this step? We think not!
4 Stretching Rules to Adhere to:
Before you start stretching in the wrong way and risk injury rather than prevent it, read up on these 4 rules.
1. You need a warm up BEFORE a stretch – Yes, we said that stretching exercises were warm up exercising, but you still need to ensure that your muscles aren’t cold and stiff before you start stretching and risk a strain or sprain. Spend a couple of minutes spot jogging, skipping or walking before you stretch your muscles.
2. Gentle does it – You need to ensure that you perform stretching exercises in a slow, gentle manner. No jerky movements! Make sure you take deep breaths and work on each muscle group in a cyclic order.
3. Hold each stretch – When you stretch a muscle group, make sure that you hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. That will loosen out and lengthen your muscles that have been resting all day long, so that you don’t risk injury while working out.
4. No bouncing please – Do not bounce as you stretch; bouncing will not lengthen your muscles but rather contract them! Also make sure you never stretch beyond the point of resistance; if stretching exercises start to hurt, you are over-stretching and will only increase risk of injury.
Basic stretching exercises to begin with:
Try these basic stretching exercises for improved flexibility and the perfect warm up before a workout.
Stretch#1: Posterior Thigh stretch –
For this stretch, you need to be seated. Place your left foot on the ground and the right leg straight out. Bend forward slowly, extend your arms and touch your right toe with your fingertips. You should feel the stretch behind the right calf and knee, all the way up to the thigh. Stretch your toes upwards to really feel the burn. Repeat for the left leg, by placing your right leg on the ground now.
Stretch#2: Calf stretch –
Stand about 2 feet away from a wall. To support your upper body, place your hand against the wall and then bend forward by bending your elbows. Make sure that your feet are well grounded and your heels do not move, and do not bend the waist at all. This stretch will lengthen the calf muscles, especially if you manage to lean your hips forward without bending at the knees.
Stretch#3: Anterior thigh stretch –
For this stretch, beginners can use the support of a chair. Stand 1 foot away from it and grasp the top with one hand. With the other hand, clasp the instep of your right foot and pull your heel backwards while you bend the knee. Ensure that you stand tall, with your spine straight and do not lean forward. The goal is to touch the heel to your buttock to feel the stretch all through the thigh. Bring the right foot down and repeat with the left.
Stretch#4: Inner thigh stretch –
Sit on the ground with your legs spread apart. Fold your knees, to bring the soles of your feet facing each other and let them touch. Placing both hands on your knees, push downwards to bring the knees as close to the ground as possible. Remember to be gentle and slow. Now bend forward to deepen the stretch and hold this position for 10 seconds. The further you can bend, the better the stretch.
Stretch#5: Arms and Chest stretch –
Stand straight and keep your back pulled straight. Lift your arms and bring them in front of you, hold them at shoulder height. Now slowly move both arms towards the sides, and stretch as far back as you can go without any pain. You should feel the stretch in your chest, shoulders and your upper arm. Hold for 10 seconds and then bring the arms back.
- The Best Flexibility Programs for Toning and Stretching (exercise.answers.com)
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