Stretching is an often overlooked yet important part of fitness. Stretching helps to improve your flexibility, ease muscle tension, relieves stress and helps you recover from your workouts. If you are concerned whether to stretch before or after your workout, perform dynamic or active stretches as you warm up and static or flexibility stretches after your workout. Here are eight stretching tips:
1. As previously mentioned, stretch before and after your workouts. You will improve flexibility and avoid injuries. Be aware of the types of stretching and which are best for warm ups and cool downs of your fitness routine.
2. When stretching for flexibility after your workout, slowly ease into your stretch and hold it at the point of gentle tension in the muscle for 15 seconds. If you feel the tension ease up, go a little further into the stretch. Relax the muscle briefly and repeat the stretch.
3. Avoid ballistic (bouncing) stretches. Ballistic stretches involving bouncing into and out of your stretch can cause muscle cramping, muscle strain or sprain.
4. When stretching for flexibility, hold each stretch for about 60 seconds going deeper into the stretch every 15 seconds. Be aware of how your muscles are responding to your stretches, if you should feel pain or discomfort or pulling in your muscles, relax and ease out of the stretch.
5. To avoid muscle imbalance, stretch all of your muscle groups. Muscle imbalance is one of the major causes of back pain. As an example, strong, flexible quadriceps with tight, weak hamstrings can cause painful imbalances and pelvic tilt causing lower back pain and discomfort. When stretching, if you stretch left, always stretch right to prevent imbalance.
6. Make stretching a regular part of your fitness program. At a minimum, stretch briefly before and after your workout on regular basis. Additionally, dedicate one of your rest days to flexibility training and joint mobility.
7. Don’t force your stretches. Forcing flexibility will only lead to injury, listen to your body and relax when you need to.
8. Don’t stretch cold muscles. Warm up first and then perform active stretches as you continue to warm up. And never try to stretch for flexibility when you muscles are cold. Cold muscles and tendons tear.
Incorporate a stretching routine into your daily fitness program and you will quickly gain all of the benefits of stretching including a reduction in joint pain, back pain, muscle soreness, and stress and an increased range of motion in your joints.