Hands up if you don’t stretch at the end of a workout..
Hands up if you stretch but don’t know if you are doing it correctly..
Both are very common and can be as bad as each other.
Let’s start with the difference between stretching before and after exercise.
Before exercise muscles need to be warm and lengthened, this is done by dynamic stretching. A proper warm up will bring about many physiological benefits that not only reduce the chance of injury during a session, but also lead to better performance in the main workout. Safe and effective activities for a warm up include gradual and progressive pulse raising and body warming activities with some range of motion activities including dynamic and static stretches.
After exercise, stretching will address flexibility limitations and return the body to an appropriate non exercising state. A cool down should include pulse lowering activities after any cardiovascular work as well as stretches to maintain and develop flexibility.
Why is flexibility important?
Without flexibility training, range of motion and mobility will be restricted. Any significant lack of flexibility can dramatically affect posture, impair performance and daily functioning. With consistent post workout stretching, the body becomes more flexible. You will find it easier to bend, stand, squat and do a host of other flexibility related exercises, which would have otherwise not been possible as well as increasing performance. It has been seen that leg stretches done after a long run, for example, increases muscular power and endurance for runners.
Certain activities, where the muscles are not used through their full range of motion, have potential to reduce flexibility, examples of these activities are running, football and cycling. This can lead to muscle tightness and adaptive shortening. If you don’t have a properly structured resistance programme then you may be overdeveloping one muscle group (prime movers) while neglecting the opposing muscle group (antagonists) which can cause muscle imbalances that restrict flexibility.
When and how often?
Flexibility is a core component of fitness that should be included in any training programme. So what frequency, intensity and time should you stretch for?
3-5 days a week, always after a workout when the muscles are warm
Stretch to the point of mild tension and mild discomfort
Hold for 10 – 30 seconds
A total of 60 seconds per muscle group is recommended, stretches can be repeated 2 – 4 times to achieve this total, such as 4 x 15 seconds.
Still not convinced?
Lengthening muscle tissue and increasing flexibility through stretching allows you to perform strength building moves with greater range of movement, making the exercise more effective and encourages muscle growth. Don’t just take it from me, research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found intense stretching after working a muscle group has the potential to increase it’s mass by 318% in 28 days..
Full body stretch anyone?!