By Dr. Trevor Tew
Stretching pre and post-workout is an important addition to any exercise process. Stretching keeps the body flexible and strong while also maintaining mobility in our joints. If you allow stretching to be pushed to the side, your muscles can become shortened and excessively tight. Additionally, without it, you are putting your body at risk for strain, joint pain, and joint damage that could have lifelong effects. Below are a few key benefits that come with stretching.
Increase in Oxygen- When working out, we begin to breathe quicker in an attempt to bring more oxygen to our working muscles. In some cases when lifting heavy weights, our bodies crave production of energy faster than we can deliver it. When incorporating stretching prior to our work out, the oxygen flow can move quicker via the bloodstream. During a workout, if your body isn't receiving that oxygen, you are going to become more prone to pains, tightness, and tension.
Helps Prevent Back Pain- When your muscles are tight, you are decreasing your range of motion. One of the more common areas of the body that is affected is our back. When we incorporate stretching we are helping to avoid soreness and tightness in the back. Alongside the avoidance of back pain, this will also help us with our posture. When we have muscle imbalance our posture is the first to slip. Stretching can decrease musculoskeletal pain and promote proper alignment.
Where to Start- Just like any other form of movement for your body, it's going to be an adjustment, so be sure to start slow. Aim to stretch for 5-10 minutes pre and post-workout. There are many different styles of stretches but the most beneficial to start with would be Dynamic and Static stretching. The difference between the two is that Dynamic stretching is the process of constant and active movement that is continuously stretching your muscles, but not causing you to hold in an end position. Static stretches involve holding a position for a period of time. The average hold time for Static stretches would be between 30-60 seconds. My advice to you would be to focus on Dynamic stretches before your workout to get your muscles ready for movement, and Static stretches after your workout.
Whether you are new to exercising, or have been doing it for years, we can all benefit from stretching in the same ways. By adding in Static and Dynamic stretching to your workouts you are allowing your body to reap the benefits of an increase in range of motion, a decrease in joint and back pain, and increased oxygen flow.