Quit forgetting to STRETCH!
If you've ever been a client of mine, you know that I finish every session by saying the same thing.
1. Drink water
2. Get some good food in ya
This post is going to focus on STRETCHING , it's value, importance and how it can really help when done properly.
First, lets get this out of the way. Depending on who you talk to and what angle they're coming from every coach has a different opinion on stretching, when to do it, and of course how to do it. I'm going to focus on something we can all agree on..that it's good for you and can be helpful.
Lets jump in! On a surface level, stretching leads to increased muscle flexibility plain and simple- duration and when its done is the only discussion. No matter what it is you are stretching for, an increase in flexibility and range of motion are the most obvious benefits. I'm going to focus on three areas where stretching can really help improve yourself physically.
1. Improve Posture
2. Injury Prevention
3. Athletic Performance
In case you didn't know, there are two types of stretches: Static and Dynamic. Here's a quick overview of each! Static stretching is what most of you know and probably do pre/post workouts: hold a position for 30-60 seconds and help lengthen those fibers- great way to increase flexibility. Dynamic is movement based stretching, really getting yourself warmed and not simply pulling on the muscles. Leg swings, trunk rotations, arms circles, etc. This is the way to "loosen up" and really enhance performance based work.
Moving on to the first of the three topics that stretching can really influence.
Improving posture: A LOT of the poor posture I see in clients and around the gyms are not related to injuries, most are people who lack range of motion and neglected giving their bodies that relief. They've developed muscle imbalances over time, not over night. These imbalances can lead to plenty of discomfort and I'm sure we've all dealt with something related to this. Chronic neck, back and shoulder pain, areas like the feet, knees and hips are hot areas if you don't loosen them up consistently. Something I see a lot in clients, maybe most of all, impingement and nerve compression. Posture is key to living and working comfortably** Take the time to work on it and I guarantee you won't regret getting yourself back in line.
Injury Prevention: Having great range of motion and flexibility can help with a lot of those acute injuries-over use in muscles like hamstrings strains, IT bands tightening up, plantar fasciitis, tight glute, etc. Stretching prior to activity in the warm up phase has been proven to help prevent injury by lightly warming up the muscle groups. When it comes to injury prevention and warming up,I'd suggest the dynamic style stretching. Ask any of my clients, no one comes in and starts static stretching, I always have them go right into something active to get the blood flowing and muscles warm. No one wants to be injured, especially if you've been making a lot of progress. That's always the worst time to have a set back, so take the time, warm up appropriately and avoid injuring yourself.
Improving Athletic Performance: Being flexible and allowing your body to work at a higher level is what ever athlete wants. Run faster, harder, better agility, jumper higher and further- having a full muscle range and allowing the muscle to work at full capacity will give you those advantages over your opponents. You'll be able to defend better or blow by your opponent leaving them in the dust. Maybe you're trying to lift more while working with weights? Being properly warmed up and having the ability to utilize full muscle can help you leverage and move more weight. There have been plenty of times where my range of motion has been limited and I know it's had a negative impact on my lifts.
Stretching holds plenty of value and too many of us, too often, leave it out of our workouts. 5 min pre-workout and 5 minutes post, it's better than nothing. We all have to start somewhere and 10 minutes will help. That 5 and 5 will soon not be enough and you'll want more. I promise.
Attached is are a couple of links to beginner stretching routines for anyone who might be unsure of where to start!