Stretching: How To Get the Most Out of Your Workout
Preparing for a workout and taking care of your body post workout are just as important as the workout itself. If you don’t properly warm up and cool down, you could injure yourself or others over the duration of your workout. You may not injure yourself right away, or in a way that you physically feel something wrong with your body, but it absolutely can happen. One of the best and most tried and true ways to avoid any unnecessary injury during your workout is a proper stretch: both in the warm-up and cool down. Stretching has benefits that extend long after you finish a workout so today we’ll be covering why stretching is important, and even give you some suggestions for different ways you can stretch.
Stretching has an array of benefits for your body. It can improve circulation, range of muscle, and muscle flexibility. Stretching allows the muscles to lengthen and relax which results in the body’s ability to maximize muscle engagement. Incorporating stretching into the before and after of your workout will benefit you down the line when it comes to recovery, and your next gym session. One of the most important parts of utilizes the benefits and advantages of stretching is knowing when to do what kind of stretching. There are two main forms of stretching: dynamic stretching and static stretching.
Dynamic stretching involves the movement of the body while stretching, whereas static stretching has the body not moving. One of the biggest mistakes we make in our stretching warm-up is that often times we start with the wrong stretches (and by default finish with the wrong stretches). For decades static stretching was the only form of stretching practiced among gym goers and athletes alike. All those years of reaching for your toes and holding, or stretching your hamstrings behind your back before gym class are no longer. Dynamic stretching before a workout is the ideal warm up, and for a handful of reasons.
Dynamic stretching prior to a workout, sports game, or any other physical activity activates the muscles you’ll be using for the duration of your activity. Engaging the muscles in mobility-based stretches in your warm up will prepare you for engaging these same muscles during your workout. Dynamic stretching also improves your range of motion, and improve body awareness. Moving around before your workout or game wakes your body up to perform similar movements; this way your body won’t have to adjust much to the activity. For example, a dynamic stretch of lunging and twisting will prepare you for squat lunges, or jumping to make a basket. Motion-based workouts also get the heart and cardiovascular muscles pumping as well as enhance your overall performance.
Static stretching includes holding a challenging but comfortable stretch for anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds, and is advised to be done after a workout. Static stretches can help decrease muscle tension after a workout, and increase muscle relaxation. Static stretching after your intense soccer game or spin class can also help with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) by decreasing it. When it comes to static stretching, reach just beyond your comfort level in the stretch so as you are working the body but not in a way that will result in a pulled muscle or issue. Remember to breathe, and deeply, when taking part in static stretching after your workout.
There are a plethora of different dynamic and static stretches that anyone can add into their warm-up and cool-down after exercise. Some of the best dynamic stretches include twisting lunges, high kicks, knees to chest, squat jumps, and twisting hip stretches. Combine your favorites to form your own warm-up dynamic stretching routine, or mix it up a little by throwing some yoga in the mix. Speeding up a few different yoga positions and sequences allow them to work in the way that dynamic stretches do. Try an arching down dog to knee into chest, or even the simpler downward dog to toe-tucked upward dog. Cat to cow is also another really wonderful dynamic stretch; it is appropriate for all fitness levels and can easily be worked into any dynamic warm-up routine.
As for post workout static stretching, it’s advised to static stretch the muscles that were the focus of your previous workout or activity. Leg day? Stretch the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and lower back. Abs? Stretch the core, sides, and back. Arm day? Stretch the triceps, wrists, chest, and shoulders. Try to focus on the areas that will be sore later in the day or the following day. Static stretches are simple and you should push yourself, but not to the point of pain. Feel the stretch, sink a little deeper into the stretch, and then hold. Dynamic and static stretching will pay off in the long run, and in your recovery period. For extra help with muscle soreness or pain after a workout, try SSLA Lifestyle’s Soothe Muscle and Joint Cream. This aloe-based rub penetrates deep into the skin to temporarily relieve pain from muscle soreness and overexertion as well as the joint pain and swelling often associated with arthritis. For more information, you can visit the Soothe product page here.