What is one of the most neglected, yet the most important part of working out – Stretching
All of us lead busy lives and end up using our ‘exercise time’ to focus on our main routine, neglecting stretches in the process. However, stretches are the hidden gems of exercising. They are essential to improving and strengthening our bodies. In fact, if you have limited time, it is better to skip your main routine altogether and simply focus on stretching.
Why are stretches so important?
Warming up and pre-workout stretches help make our muscles more flexible and release tension, resulting in increased energy. Post-workout stretches are known to reduce soreness in the muscles that have been worked upon. So, it is unsurprising that most of the sports and exercise related injuries that people pick up are a result of not doing the necessary stretches before and after exercising.
Stretches have multiple benefits for both the body and the mind. This blog will describe some of these benefits, and also illustrate some of the stretches that I have found most effective.
Benefits of stretching:
- Flexibility – Frequent stretching regularly works your muscles, and as a result leads to increased flexibility. Good flexibility promotes healthy muscles and joints, and enhances freedom of movement. A good range of motion is as critical in older life as muscular strength ends up decreasing. All these benefits stem from one thing: stretching!
- Injury Prevention – Stretching before your work out prepares your muscles for the vigorous exercise movements, and as a result your movement becomes easier. Hence, the likelihood of injury is decreased through a few quick stretches.
- Reduced Soreness and Fatigue – You will find it easier to do longer and more strenuous exercise sessions when you stretch before a workout. Moreover, stretching after a work out helps reduce fatigue and soreness in the muscles (see point 4).
- Increased Nutrients – Stretching helps increase the circulation of blood to various parts of the body and different muscles. This enables the nutrients in the blood to flow and spread throughout the body as well. An increased nutrient and blood supply is what helps reduce soreness.
- Stress Relief – I find stretching to be most effective for Stress Management. It makes your mind more calm and peaceful, as your muscles feel less tense once they are stretched.
- Improved Posture – Since stretching helps strengthen your muscles and encourages proper alignment of the body, it helps improve your posture as well. As a result of stretching, your body posture will be more vertical and less slouched.
- Energy Boost – Finally, given an increased blood supply and flow of nutrients, one feels more invigorated and energetic after stretching. Hence, stretching not only refreshes your body and mind, but also provides an energy kick.
Keep in mind, stretches should not be used as a substitute for warm ups. You have to do your warm up exercises IN ADDITION TO stretches. It is also imperative to understand the correct technique to ensure that you are stretching properly. Incorrect stretching can be more harmful to your muscles that beneficial and can also lead to injury and pain.
Below, I have shared some stretches I find effective before and after working out. My pre-work out stretches help stretch tense muscles, so that movements in the main exercise become more fluid. My post-work out exercises help avoid soreness and injuries whether your exercise consists of running, swimming, bicycling, doing weights, high intensity interval training, or more.
Pre Work Out Stretches:
Post Work Out Stretches:
So, please remember, if you have limited time, it is better to skip your main routine and focus on stretching.
Get out your exercise mat and get stretching!