Summer is almost here and we are all dreaming of those perfect fit bodies that we can show off on the beach. And even if that’s not exactly our planned summer, let’s face it – the majority of people will try to work out as much as possible to stay physically active, healthy, and positive. Although the topic of stretching is commonly discussed whenever you visit a gym or a professional sports class, a lot of people who prefer to stay active in their own time neglect this part of their exercise. This could be due to the lack of free time or it could simply suggest that not enough importance is put on stretching.
- Explain what stretching does to your body
- Look at a few reasons why you should stretch before and after a workout
- Share some of the most popular and beneficial stretches you could try
So buckle up, here we go!
What happens to your body during a stretch?
The main activity taking place in your body when stretching is the extension of your muscle fibers and tendons. However, in reality, it is not the lengthening of the muscle complex that can make you more flexibly. There are specific points where the muscle tissue is attached to the bone and even with 24 hours of stretching a day, this won’t change. The muscles do recover and go back to their original place at some point.
It is the nervous system that truly makes a difference when it comes to flexibility. There are nerve endings spread out through the muscle and tendon. The nerves have the role of signalizing if a stretch is too risky for the muscles. They are like an antivirus program, triggering a reaction of pain and resistance to stop the stretch from going any further and potentially causing damage to the muscles.
Have you ever wondered why babies are so ridiculously flexible? There is your answer.
Why is stretching before and after a workout important?
There are many reasons why professional athletes, fitness instructors, and even doctors would recommend forming the habit of stretching regularly, especially if you are planning to workout. If you are a fan of staying fit and have your own workout plan, chances are that you are already familiar with this. However, it’s nice to remember and truly appreciate the importance of stretching. If you still haven’t incorporated stretching in your workouts, now is the time to consider doing so.
Let’s look at the main benefits of stretching!
- Boosted flexibility: This is pretty straightforward and it is the main reason why stretching is so popular in the first place. Even if you are not a professional ballerina or gymnastic, being flexible to the extent that you need is certainly a plus. Being flexible is also a great contribution towards stable health. It can help you feel better and perform better throughout your everyday tasks.
- Better performance: If you are physically active or take part in sports, you are probably aware of the importance of being flexible. If you participate in a sport with team members, you’ll notice that they will appreciate the work you’re putting in as your results start improving.
- Improved blood circulation: Stretching influences the amount of blood that reaches your muscles. With an increased blood flow, you can be certain that you will be able to recover in a shorter time period and you are likely to lower your muscle soreness after a good workout. This will allow you to achieve more in a shorter period and will make you feel better when exercising.
- A better posture: Posture is one of the most important things you could work on regarding your body. It is not only visually appealing to see a person stand in the right position but it is also a matter of health. Poor posture can severely influence the condition of your spine, feet, and can cause serious long-term damage. Proper alignment is stimulated by a balanced mix of strengthening and stretching exercises for particular muscle groups.
- A stronger back: That’s right, stretching can cure your back problems! If you’ve overdone it with the weights on your last workout, it’s natural that a sore back will be one of the consequences. This limits your range of motion and opens the door to other problems such as a strained back. If you find the time to stretch the muscles you will feel instant relief and will prepare your back for future workouts.
- The perfect preparation: When you are about to work out, your mind may already be up for it and waiting to start but the body doesn’t always get the signal so fast. The best way to warm up and let your muscles know what they are about to experience is by stretching, especially focusing on those parts of the body that you know will be put under pressure during the exercise.
- Avoid injuries: People who don’t stretch at all are more likely to suffer from an injury even from the smallest of movements. This is because their bodies are not prepared for most types of activity. The muscles’ resistance is bound to drop as you start stretching regularly, meaning that your body will welcome physical activity with an open mind.
- Relieves stress: There is a reason why a great portion of yoga is focused on stretching. This activity may seem insignificant at first, but has the power to change your life completely. There is nothing more relaxing than spending some quality time with yourself on your yoga mat with calm music in the background. Regular stretches like this can be your form of meditation. They can take away all the pressure from your mind and help you prepare it for another day. Don’t think twice, whenever you have the chance – stretch.
Types of stretches
Stretching is a highly individual practice and it is up to you to find the stretch that works best for your body. However, there are four major types of stretching activities that you can choose from or mix to form your stretching routine. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways that you can stretch parts of your body that you probably even didn’t know could be stretched. Consult yourself with an expert or find useful stretching tips via online videos.
Here are the different types of stretches:
- Dynamic stretch: These types of stretching are performed with repetition and have the aim to slowly enhance the range of movement. You always start small and as the repetitions roll, gradually increase the motion, pushing yourself a little further.
- Static stretch: Static stretches are among the most popular ones and are often encouraged by professionals. With this type of stretch, you want to push the muscle until you become slightly uncomfortable. Once you reach this spot, hold the position for no less than 30 seconds. You will notice that with time, the point of discomfort will shift further.
- Bouncing stretch: Unlike the static stretch, where you must hold the stretching position, the bouncing stretch involves movement. This type of stretch aims to quickly widen the motion range by performing bouncing movements. If you choose this type of stretch, be careful not to put too much pressure while bouncing as this may cause you to go beyond the point of discomfort and potentially cause an injury.
- PNF: PNF or Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation is a method that requires you to contract and relax our muscle while stretching. It may not be the best option for beginners but is a great way to boost your flexibility as you become more experienced.
There we have it! We’ve now covered the most important information about stretching and have hopefully provided enough evidence that stretching is an essential part of your physical activity. Don’t waste more time and include your favorite stretches in your workout next time you decide to exercise. In no time, you will notice how your body will start transforming, you will feel more comfortable in your skin, and your daily lifestyle is bound to improve.
Share this knowledge with your friends and family and inspire them to stretch more. You will be surprised how fun it could be to exchange stretching ideas and exercises to improve your health and stability. If you still haven’t, choose an amazing pair of leggings and a sports bra that will help you be as flexible as you need throughout your workout.