The natural thing that most people do is stretch before starting a workout. But the average person’s definition of stretching is likely a lot different than what is recommended. While doing some toe touches and arm swings can stretch out some parts of your body, it’s usually not enough. Stretching should get your heart rate up a little bit, and you should spend 5-10 minutes stretching before you begin your workout.
Where most people fail in stretching is AFTER the workout. When you’re done working out, the only thing you want to do is grab a drink and relax. But that’s actually the worst thing you can do. You may not feel the negative effects of not stretching after your workout right away, but you definitely will down the road. About to work out? Here are some explanations of why dynamic stretching exercises are incredibly important both before and after your workout.
What are Dynamic Stretching Exercises
Simply put, “dynamic” stretching means you are moving while you stretch, as opposed to static stretching which typically has you lying or standing motionless holding a stretch for 10 plus seconds. Dynamic stretching does a better job activating your muscles used during activity, improves your range of motion, body awareness and muscular performance. While not necessary for all forms of workout or exercise, dynamic stretching exercises are a great way to warm up before playing in your favorite recreational sporting event or activity to reduce the risk of injury.
Work Up A Sweat Stretching Before Your Workout
In general, you should stretch out most of the main muscles in your body, even if the workout isn’t focused on them. For example, stretch out your arms and shoulders even if your workout consists of mostly lower body. As your body gets tired, other muscles kick in and you don’t want to tweak something on accident.
If you do proper stretches before your workout, then you should start to feel the sweat coming. Relaxing stretches, like what’s done in yoga, is not what you’re shooting for here. You want to get your heart rate up slightly and really stretch out those muscles.
Stretching before working out will do the following:
• Prevent strain
• Get the blood flowing
• Relax the body in general
• Enhance flexibility
• Decrease muscle tension
When you do your stretches before the workout, be sure to get the full effects. Otherwise, you may wonder why you just aren’t mentally and physically prepared to workout that day and could increase the chances of getting injured.
Don’t Skip the Post-Workout Dynamic Stretching Exercices
Your post-workout stretching is where you can focus mainly on the muscles that were used. If you did a tough lower-body workout, then really focus on stretching the leg muscles. The muscles contracted and stretched throughout the workout, so stretching helps them get back to their normal size. Don’t just go through the motions, even though you’re going to be tired. Be sure to hold each position for 8-10 seconds to properly stretch out the muscles.
Doing a proper stretching technique after your workout will help with the following:
• Prevent extreme muscle soreness
• Prevent injury
• Helps recovery
• Avoid long-term muscle or joint issues
If you consistently skip your post-workout stretching, then you may not feel harmful effects immediately. However, prolonged skipping of the stretching could lead to other injuries down the road. The injury may not seem like it’s related to a lack of stretching, but chances are it is. Stretching for 8-10 minutes after an intense workout will help your body get back to normal, and you will also maximize your workout as a result.
When Should You Not Stretch?
Some people think it’s unnecessary to stretch if they are just doing a light workout. While you won’t have to stretch as much in that situation, you shouldn’t avoid it completely. The only reasons why you should avoid stretching completely is if:
• You have a broken bone or a torn muscle
• You feel pain when stretching certain areas
• Your range of motion is very limited
• You have other issues that cause pain, or if a doctor recommends you shouldn’t stretch
As you can see, these are pretty serious reasons why you shouldn’t stretch before or after a workout. Chances are if you have any of these issues, then you probably won’t be working out much anyway.
Even if you’re busy and barely have time to get your workout in, it’s important to fit in stretching. And it’s also important to understand that stretching will benefit you more the closer you do it to your workout. So don’t wait an hour or longer after your workout to stretch again. The main benefits of stretching will be felt immediately before and after the workout.
So do your body a favor and make dynamic stretching exercises a priority as a part of your workout!
Sources: Your Fitness FAQ and Men’s Fitness
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