The Importance of Stretching Before a Workout

The Physical Benefits That Stretching Offers

man stretching before his workoutWhen you get in the mood to work out you may be tempted to jump immediately into it and get it done while you have the energy.

Stretching is one of the most important aspects of exercise but the importance of stretching can be so easy to overlook. It’s an important aspect of everyday life, whether or not a workout follows it.

Stretching helps keep you and your muscles flexible and healthy. It’s important to keep our muscles flexible and feeling strong so we can use them throughout the day and maintain a good range of motion.

Stretching is something that we should be doing regularly, daily if possible. Without it, our muscles become weaker and are more prone to injuries.

Here are reasons why you should incorporate a stretching routine into your life and start stretching before a workout!

Improves Flexibility

Stretching helps improve your flexibility and, as a result, improves your joints’ range of motion.

Your range of motion relies on the mobility of the soft tissue around your joints. Over time, failing to stretch regularly can lead to soft tissue shortening due to fatigue.

This could be extra beneficial if you partake in athletic activities of any kind. Stretching can help improve performance and allow your muscles to work at their most effective level. It can also help decrease the likelihood of injuries.

It also helps improve your daily activities. If you usually have to walk or commute during your day you may find that doing flexibility exercises before and after makes it easier.

Prevents Injury

A man with a knee injuryIf you stretch a muscle properly and increase its range of motion it is less likely to become injured.

That’s because stretching before any kind of activity increases blood flow to the muscles. This warms the muscle up and decreases the tightness that may be in the muscle.

Doing this can help decrease your chances of getting muscle strains or tears. Whether you’re jumping on the best exercise bike or picking up exercise equipment, it will help prepare your muscles for increased activity to stretch beforehand.

Increases Neuromuscular Coordination

Neuromuscular coordination is also known as muscle memory. Every movement you make happens because your brain communicates with your muscles through your nervous system.

Warming up and stretching before a workout or activity will wake up your nervous system and prepare it for more movement.

You know by now that stretching improves your range of motion. Improving this enables your whole body to move more easily and increases your level of muscle coordination.

Returns Muscles to Naturally Resting State

Your muscles are elastic. That is to say, your muscles can stretch to a certain point and then they will return to their regular, or resting, state.

Think of how a rubber band stretches, it’s not too far off from how your muscles stretch. When your muscles are resting they are stretched to their resting length.

The natural resting length of your muscle boosts the muscle’s ability to contract when it is stimulated, aka when you’re participating in aerobic exercise.

Stretching before and after cardio exercises will help your muscles return to their natural resting state, which in turn will help your overall health.

Increases Comfort, Limits Pain

a woman stretching before her running workoutYou may have noticed that your muscles are sore sometimes after a workout. You may even be someone who wakes up with certain aches and pains straight out of bed.

Stretching can help maintain everyday aches and soreness. Stretching improves your blood circulation which leads to an increase in blood flow to your muscles. When this happens it can cut down on your muscles’ recovery time which can reduce the ache in your muscle.

Dynamic stretching is the best way to stretch prior to exercise, as it helps to activate the muscles.

Static stretching (stretching where you hold a muscle in a stretch for a certain amount of time) should be reserved for after exercise. If you do static stretching before exercise, it can reduce your endurance and strength.

Good for Recirculating Blood

Partaking in daily stretching increases blood flow and sends oxygen to your brain. This can help clear your head and even put you in a better mood.

Improved circulation allows for oxygen and nutrients to be carried to your muscles. This is vital because your muscles need those things to properly function and improve strength and movement.

The Importance of Stretching Your Whole Body

Much like you wouldn’t only water one area of your lawn, it doesn’t make sense to only stretch certain parts of your body.

Your body is essentially one connected machine, so one area can affect another. If one area is not functioning properly it may affect another area also.

As you have already read, there are many benefits to stretching and your whole body should be able to reap those benefits.

Especially when stretching before a workout, make sure that your stretching routine incorporates moves that target at least one stretch for every major muscle group.

Stretching Tips Before & After Exercise

elderly man stretching before exercise

  • You should do a short warmup, 5 – 10 minutes, before stretching to warm up your muscles. Stretching cold muscles can be dangerous and can cause injury.
  • Make sure you’re not pushing yourself past your limit when you stretch. If you’re in pain, ease up on the stretch.
  • Keep up with your stretching routine. You will reap all the benefits of stretching if you do it at least three times a week.
  • Make sure that your stretches happen in one smooth movement. Moving around or bouncing during a stretch can potentially injure your muscles.

Visit a Physiotherapist if You Need Help

If stretching is hard for you because you’ve been injured or have certain conditions, a physiotherapist can help you.

Physiotherapy is a method of treatment that helps you to restore and maintain physical strength.

Physiotherapy can help treat a variety of conditions or injuries. It can help manage many things, from post-operative recovery to sciatica and much more.

Start Your Stretching Routine Today!

You now know the importance of stretching before a workout or any other type exercise – whether it’s lifting weights, going for a run, or playing sports.

Part of your routine should be taking care of your body in between workouts. Add massage therapy to your routine after a strenuous workout and stretch session to reduce pain and improve joint mobility.

Johanne Gordon - Registered Physiotherapist

Johanne is an experienced, fluently bilingual physiotherapist who graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in physiotherapy with magna cum laude honours from the University of Ottawa.

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