Stretching, more technically referred to as flexibility training is an important, yet overlooked component, of workouts.
Major benefits of incorporating stretching into your workout include:
Increase your range of motion
Reducing muscle soreness.
Enhance athletic performance
So you think stretching is something performed only by runners or athletes. Not the case as we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence. “A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily,” says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Stretching will keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need the flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without proper flexibility, the muscles will shorten and become tight. Then, when you need your muscles for activity, the'll be weak and unable to extend all the way. This puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage, according to Harvard Health Letter: The Importance of Stretching.
Before you begin your workout you should focus on dynamic stretching to warm up and stimulate your muscles, this will prep them for the upcoming activity. Runners should focus on butt kicks, hip circles or walking lunges while soccer players should focus on leg and hip swings. Essentially you’re repetitively moving the muscles you’ll be using within your range of motion to prepare them to engage in strenuous activity.
Conversely, after your workout-out session has ended, you should focus on a cool down to decrease stimulation and enhance relaxation focusing on muscle groups that feel tight or overused. This is where the foam rollers and massage balls come in. Stretches like seated groin stretches, hamstring stretches, or upper and low back stretches are great for recovery.
Don’t get over zealous though, stretching should not be done too quickly or too aggressively, this could easily turn something very GOOD into something very BAD. Proceed with caution and always know your limitations.
Finally, modify, adapt, and adjust the stretch to suit your particular needs. Use padding under your knees for example, or try the same stretch sitting down, lying down, or standing up if it’s more comfortable for you, via Shape magazine.
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