If you participate in sports or do any form of exercise for that matter, stretching is an important and beneficial part of your workout. Besides the key benefit of preventing injury from pulled muscles, stretching has many other advantages.
Limbering up can help you get the most out of your chosen activity, increase your range of motion, and contribute to better performance no matter what the physical exercise. Below, we outline the key benefits of pre and post workout stretching.
Benefits of stretching
The key benefit of stretching is to prevent injury and prepare your body for exercise. Ensuring you adequately stretch all the relevant areas of your body is vital. If you fail to stretch the muscles you intend to work, it is more likely you will ‘pull’ a muscle – or even damage a muscle more severely. Injuries can take many weeks to heal, keeping you out of action for a considerable time.
Not only does stretching prevent injury, it can also help you to manage pain. If you have existing injuries or weak spots in your body, stretching can help you exercise for longer with a greater intensity. This minimises the chance of older injuries re-emerging.
Warming up the body with stretches increases blood flow to the muscles, gearing up the body for action. This improves your range of motion and increases flexibility. The psychological impact of stretching can also help you work that little bit harder.
Some other benefits of stretching include stress relief and improvements in posture.
Developmental and maintenance stretches
Two popular types of stretches are: developmental and maintenance. Maintenance stretches help you maintain your existing level of flexibility. Typically, you would hold a maintenance stretch for around 10 seconds, although it can be longer.
Developmental stretches differ from maintenance stretches in that they aim to increase your flexibility and range of motion. You should aim to hold most developmental stretches around 30 seconds to one minute.
Developmental stretches are ideal for cool down routines when the body is warm and already has better flexibility and movement. One example of a developmental stretch is a lying hamstring stretch where you hold the position for longer than 30 seconds.
Benefits of cool down stretches
At the end of a workout, cooling down with a stretching routine will help to stabilise your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Stretching just after exercise also helps you achieve more beneficial stretches and improves your recovery so you can get back to exercise quicker.
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