When it comes to bad exercise habits, not taking the time to stretch before or after exercise is a priority for most of us. But what does stretching do to your body? Does it really make a difference to your recovery?
We combed through the research and spoke with Luke Hughes, Level 4 PT and founder of OriGym (opens in new tab)Learn more about the benefits of stretching (opens in new tab).
Why should I stretch?
Just like cardio or strength training, stretching is a broad church covering a range of exercises that help in different ways.
“It helps relax and lengthen the muscles of the body, thereby improving their range of motion, while also reducing the likelihood of acute muscle strain,” Hughes said.
Targeted stretching can also be part of your rehabilitation if you’ve already been injured.A study by the American College of Orthopaedic Surgeons (opens in new tab) People with acute plantar fasciitis (a painful plantar disease, especially in runners) who stretched out better than those who received shockwave therapy were found to have better results, Archives of Internal Medicine (opens in new tab) Stretching therapy was found to be more effective than yoga in reducing chronic low back pain.
Stretching before and after exercise
The key to pre-exercise stretching is to keep it dynamic: active movements that allow your muscles to work within their range of motion.
“These repetitive movements act as an initial warning system for your body, so it prepares it for what’s to come,” says Hughes. Muscle fibers relax and become longer, increasing the amount of energy you can pass through those muscles. The amount of exercise achieved. “
Different dynamic stretches are suitable for different exercises, but may include leg swings for runners, walking lunges for football players, arm swings for swimmers, and spinal rotation for anyone who needs upper body flexibility.
While most fitness experts encourage dynamic stretching before a workout, a review by Canadian Science Press (opens in new tab) – Hundreds of studies in 2015 found that it doesn’t hurt to combine some static stretching as part of a full-body warm-up to get your blood pumping, as the combination may help reduce muscle strain .
However, once you’re done working out, static stretching will provide the greatest benefit. “Static stretching requires you to move the muscle as much as possible without pain, hold the stretch for a total of 20-45 seconds, and repeat multiple times,” says Hughes. At least 10 minutes is a good goal to help you calm down.
other types of stretching
In addition to dynamic and static, there are other types of stretching. Hughes explains some varieties:
- Ballistic stretch: Similar to static, but it requires you to act quickly rather than gradually, beyond your average range of motion. For example, the act of touching your toes now requires you to bounce and yank onto your foot.
- Passive stretching: Requires external force to create resistance: this could be another person, a prop, such as a resistance band (opens in new tab), or even just gravity.Interestingly, according to the Physiological Society, passive stretching 5 times a week for 12 weeks may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes because it helps improve blood flow by improving arterial health (opens in new tab).
- PNF stretch: Proprioceptive neuromuscular-facilitated stretching requires you to actively stretch the muscle through a combination of alternating contraction and relaxation techniques. However, this can only be done under expert guidance.
- Isometric stretch: An advanced type of static stretching that increases the resistance of muscle groups by using isometric contractions. For example, placing an outstretched leg on a chair and pressing the leg down produces an isometric contraction.
Which muscles need to be stretched the most?
To some extent, your stretches should be guided by the movement you enjoy. So if you’re going to lift weights for the upper body, you need to pay attention to your arms, shoulders, and core muscles. Runners may want to spend longer on their legs and hips. But some muscles can be associated with conventional TLC.
“I recommend that you pay special attention to the muscles responsible for your general movement,” says Hughes. “This includes the calves, hamstrings, hip flexors in the pelvis, and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. By regularly stretching these areas, you help your muscles stay long and flexible, which in turn helps you Keep your balance.” Your muscles tend to shorten and tighten as you age, so your future self will appreciate the work you put in now.
What happens if I don’t stretch enough?
It’s not the most enjoyable part of exercising, but regular stretching can save you from serious pain in the long run. “Inflexibility causes your muscles to tire at a faster rate and your joints are more prone to injury. This causes abnormal stress on the structure, which in turn causes less blood and nutrients in the joints,” Hughes said.
If you’re a fitness bunny, things get trickier. “The average athlete also has an excess of anti-inflammatory lactate, a stimulant that causes muscle soreness. When you stretch, your body begins to break down and expel this harmful substance while distributing oxygen to your Body. Muscles.”
In other words, missing a workout isn’t a big deal, but stretching irregularly can lead to a buildup of problems, including muscle soreness and inflexibility, especially if you’re exercising regularly.