There are many components that contribute to a healthy body and fit physique. People often are unaware of the importance of stretching and how it can either accelerate or hinder physical abilities. Working out a muscle is only part of the process and proper stretching can promote a healthier, more agile lifestyle.
According to Harvard Medical School, "Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints." Failure to stretch can cause our muscles to be tight, ultimately limiting physical capabilities including walking and working out.
Before a Workout
It is important to stretch before a workout in order to prevent injury. Before stretching, you should warm up your body for 5-10 minutes. A warm up can be anything from a light jog to jumping jacks. The purpose of the warm up is to get your blood flowing so that you don't tear a muscle during your stretch. Once you are fully warmed up, you can stretch prior to your workout. Make sure you focus especially on the muscle groups you are going to target during your workout. If you have time, you should do a full body stretch.
After a Workout
During a workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles which can cause soreness and fatigue. The importance of stretching post-workout is helping your muscles recover faster. Not only are there physical benefits of stretching after a workout to reduce soreness, but there are also psychological benefits that can help you connect with your body and identify areas that feel more tense or stressed. You should incorporate stretching after your workout during your cool down.
The importance of stretching comes with proper form and tips. You should not bounce during a stretch, but rather slowly fall deeper into your stretch. If you can, hold the stretch position for at least 20 seconds, reaching farther into the stretch with every breath. Focus on breathing as well in order to maintain a consistent flow of oxygen. Some people forget to breathe during a stretch which reduces the amount of oxygen your muscles are getting.
Stretching can truly improve your agility and performance by allowing your muscles to remain lose and perform with full functionality. You should stretch before and after a workout to maximize the benefits and promote your physical health. Remember to never stretch if your body is cold because you run the risk of tearing a muscle.
If you have any questions regarding the importance of stretching or would like me to help create a stretching plan for you, please feel free to ask me here or give me a call at 310-795-2236.