I see a lot of people not fully grasping the huge importance of stretching, whether it be prior of after their exercise. They usually think that stretching is not nearly as important as exercising, so why spend time doing it. This is a dangerous way of thinking…
As you work out your muscles get bigger and stronger, and if you don’t stretch them enough, they are going to get more rigid, tight and may even shorten; if you out additional tension on already short and tight muscles, injury will soon follow.
So, the goal of this article is to bring more awareness to the importance of proper stretching and help you avoid injury by offering you some simple, easy-to-follow advices.
First of all I don’t wanna hear any excuses! I know that many of you are going to say “Oh, but I simply don’t have the time to stretch in the morning,” we both know that`s not true. So, if you want to continue to lie to yourself that`s fine by me, but if you want to make a difference you will find those 10 minutes we need to get the blood flowing.
I like to do versatile exercises, even think of some new ones while I`m stretching, just to keep things interesting and you should do the same, but for the sake of this article I am going to recommend a few you can begin with:
- Overhead Stretch – the most basic stretch in the book but it does the job. All you need to do is to stand straight and raise your hands up above your head as high as you can. Just feel that stretch going through your entire body and hold for 5-10 seconds. Make as many repetitions as you want, but 5-10 should do it.
- Side Stretch – another basic one, where you need to stand straight, spread your legs a bit more, raise one hand above your head and stretch to the opposite side. This is a great exercise and you should hold the stretch for about 5 seconds and repeat 5 times for each side.
- Forward flex – all you need to do is to bend over while keeping your legs straight. If you can touch your toes with your fingers that`s great, but if you can`t just be patient and keep trying and you will see the progress.
- Spine Rotation – it may sound intimidating but it is another basic exercise where you just rotate your spine left to right along the vertical axis.
- Butterfly Stretch – I love this stretch because it is so simple yet so effective. You need to sit down, flex your legs so that your feet are up against each other, grab them with your hands and bend over slightly while gazing in front of you. You can check out the image to the right if you are unsure about the proper way of doing it.
Benefits Of Stretching Prior To Exercising
Stretching prior to exercise, or any other physical activity, might be just as important as the exercise itself, yet not a lot of people are doing it… Why?
To be honest, we can never be sure why they are skipping it, might be the lack of time, impatience or a simple lack of knowledge; what we do know is that you should stretch, in combination with a dynamic warm up, if you want to prevent injuries.
According to the most recent studies, dynamic stretching is the way to before engaging in physical activity, rather than the static hold (we talked about earlier).
And instead of having to explain each individual exercise and possibly boring you to death, I am going to show you an excellent video I came across just recently, where you can watch all the stretching exercises being performed:
Should You Stretch After Exercising
And the answer to this question is one big YES! Stretching after physical activity will help your body cool down properly, ensure your muscles stay flexible and increase your range of motion.
We`ve already covered some exercises, and now are going to mention a few more:
- Forward bend. We`ve already talked about it so no need to repeat myself
- Shoulder stretch. A simple stretch where you raise your left arm and flex it in the elbow over your head at a 90-degree angle. Now use the opposite hand to grab the elbow and pull it to the right.
- Butterfly stretch.
- Stretch your quads. Stand up, flex your leg in the knee, grab your feet and pull your leg back.
- Looking at ceiling. Kneel down on the floor, place your hands on your heels and arch your back forward.
- Cow pose. I find myself recommending this pose quite a lot, but it is a rather useful pose for, both stretching and back pain relief. Take a look at the video below for a full preview: