I’m sure that I’m not the first person to tell you how important stretching is. You hear it from fitness enthusiasts across the board, “Make sure you stretch every day and always before and after your workout”. You’re also not the first person to ignore the advice, think that stretching is a waste of time, and that you don’t need to do it. Whether you are a runner, gymnast, gym rat, or couch potato – every one needs to stretch. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, would you? Don’t skip stretching. Just don’t do it. But, why? Think of stretching as your test drive. You’re warming up your engine before the long haul, identifying any issues or areas of concern.
Stretching helps keeps your muscles flexible, strong, healthy, maintains your joints range of motion, and can also speed up your recovery (stretching does not prevent soreness). If you skip your stretches, your muscles will become shortened and tight which can then lead to an injury. An injured muscle can cause joint issues. Healthy muscles also help to maintain balance and create a longer, leaner frame. Who doesn’t want that?
I suggest always stretching first thing in the morning when you wake up, make it part of your morning routine. Your muscles have been in the same position all night which can cause muscles to cramp up, excess toxins to build up, and a decreased blood flow. Stretching first thing in the AM will help to decrease stiffness in joints, release stress and waste from sleeping, and increase blood flow to the body thus creating more energy.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF STRETCHING
Static, Dynamic, SMR (Foam Rolling) – who knew there were so many different types of stretches. Which should you do and when?
Static Stretching – Static stretches should be performed in the morning or AFTER your workout. Static stretches are stretches that are held in the same position for 30 seconds and are considered the best form of stretching if you want to increase flexibility and range of motion.
All of your muscles have these things called “muscle spindles”. Muscle spindles are receptors that detect changes in the length of a muscle. When muscle spindles send the message to your central nervous system that your muscle is being lengthened your body responds by contracting the muscle being stretched or lengthened. Muscles spindles are there to protect us from overstretching. You also have these things called “Golgi Tendon Organs”, which are other receptors that send messages when your muscle changes in tension. Holding a stretch for 30 seconds or longer causes tension which then causes the GTO’s to activate. When the GTO’s are activated they send a signal to the CNS that overrides the muscle spindles response and the muscle will then relax. It is in this relaxed state that the stretch will increase flexibility and range of motion.
Dynamic Stretching – Dynamic stretching should be done before your workout, the stretches help prepare your body for your routine. These stretches are exactly how they sounds – dynamic. You are moving throughout the entire stretch. Dynamic stretching will help activate muscles you’ll use during your workout, enhance muscular performance, and improve range of motion. You should repeat each stretch 8-10 times. See the video below for an example of a dynamic stretch:
Foam Rolling (SMR – Self Myofascial Release) – Foam rolling should also be done at the END of your workout and is great for speeding up recovery time. Foam rolling uses tension from the foam roller to put pressure on the muscles Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO’s). As we learned before, active GTO’s will cause the muscle to relax. When foam rolling, you want to slowly roll the area until you find the most tender spot and hold on that spot for 30-90 seconds.
Why would you want to skip something that has SO many health benefits and can help aid you in reaching your fitness goals? So now that you’ve heard it for the billionth time. Stretch, stretch, stretch.