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The Importance Of Stretching

May 21, 2019

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When it comes to exercising, most people focus exclusively on the actual workout - the part that gets their heart pumping and leaves their muscles sore the next day.

This is certainly an important component of working out. It's not the only thing that matters, though.

Pre- and post-workout stretching can help to improve your performance and reduce your risk of experiencing an injury during a workout, and it can help you to feel more relaxed after the workout is complete. 

If you're not making stretching a part of your routine, now is the time to start.

Read on to learn more about why stretching is so important to your overall health and mobility.

Benefits of Stretching

A lot of people write stretching off as something that's nice but not necessary. The truth, though, is that stretching provides a lot of important benefits both to gym-goers and average Joes.

The following are some of the greatest benefits that stretching has to offer:

Improved Circulation

Research shows that stretching can help to improve circulation and allow blood to flow through the body in a more efficient way.

This, in turn, helps to carry waste products out of the muscle tissue after a workout is complete.

It also helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles to help heal injuries and speed up the recovery process.

Reduced Injury Risk

People who stretch on a regular basis may be less prone to injuries, too.

Stretching can help to address muscle imbalances and prevent overactive muscles from compensating for underactive muscles.

When this happens, you're more likely to injure yourself while exercising or just while you're going through your daily routine.

Less Pain

Stretching throughout the day can help to minimize aches and pains brought about by desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles (two things most of us have to learn to work around these days).

Adding in a few minutes of stretching at regular intervals during the day helps to keep the blood flowing and helps to reduce soreness.

More Effective Workouts

When you stretch before a workout, you can make that workout more effective.

If the muscles around your ankle joint are tight, for example, you might not be able to squat as low as you could if your ankles were more mobile.

By taking the time to stretch and warm up the ankles, you'll be able to squat lower and get more benefits from the squat. 

Types of Stretching

In order to enjoy all the benefits that stretching has to offer, you need to make sure you're doing the right type of stretching. That's right, there's more than one way to stretch! 

The following are some of the most well-known types of stretching:

Static Stretching

Static stretching is what most people think of when they hear someone talk about stretching. Static stretching involves holding a particular stretch for an extended period of time (usually 30-60 seconds) and gradually moving deeper and deeper into that stretch. 

Static stretching can be very helpful when you're cooling down after a difficult workout or if you want to get into a more relaxed state. It's not ideal to do it before a workout, though, as lengthening the muscles too much can hinder your stability and increase your injury risk.

Dynamic Stretching

Instead of doing static stretching before a workout, you're better off doing dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching involves moving your joints through a full range of motion. The goal is to move the joint continuously, slowly, and mindfully.

An example of a dynamic stretch is a slow and controlled leg swing. 

Doing these kinds of stretches prior to a workout helps to warm up the muscles and get them ready to perform without stretching them too much. 

Active Stretching

Active stretching is sort of a combination of dynamic and static stretching. It involves holding a stretch while also engaging the muscles that surround a particular joint.

When you're doing active stretching, you engage the agonist muscles in order to stretch the antagonist muscles.

For example, an active hamstring stretch would involve engaging the quadriceps muscles in order to stretch the hamstring muscles. 

Best Stretches to Try

Are you interested in giving these different types of stretching a try? Here are some examples of each type of stretching, along with tips on how to get the most out of them:

Static Hamstring Stretch

According to this useful resource, static hamstring stretches are great for loosening up the backs of the legs and lower back.

One of the best static hamstring stretches involves standing up straight with the feet hip-width apart. Reach your arms up overhead, bend the knees slightly, and hinge forward at your hips to bring your hands down toward the floor.

Hold for about 30 seconds. 

90-90 Hip Switch

This is a dynamic stretch that helps to loosen up the hips and glutes. It's great to do before squatting, lunging, or doing other lower body exercises.

Sit on the floor with one leg bent in front of you and the other bent behind (they should form 90-degree angles).

Once you're comfortable in this position, sit back on your hips, raise your knees up, and switch positions so that the leg that was bent behind you is now bent in front and vice versa.

Hold this position for a second, then switch back to the original position. Repeat 8-10 times.

Active Hip Flexor Stretch

This exercise involves engaging the muscles of the glutes - especially the gluteus maximus - in order to stretch the hip flexors.

Start in a lunge position with one knee bent in front of you and your other knee resting on the floor behind you. Engage the glutes and tuck the hips under until you feel a stretch in your hip flexor.

Hold for a few seconds, then release the stretch. Repeat 8-10 times. 

Get More Health Tips Today

As you can see, there are lots of benefits that come with making stretching a regular part of your fitness routine.

The key is to make sure you're doing the right stretches at the right time. Keep this information in mind and you'll see a much greater benefit from making stretching a priority.

Do you want to learn more about stretching or fitness in general? If so, we've got lots of resources for you.

Start by checking out this video on fitness for beginners today. It'll teach you everything you need to know to start and stick to a fitness routine.