Stretching is a critical part of any workout process. The fundamental idea of stretching is to elongate your muscles- which are most necessary for any form of workout activity, as well as increase your flexibility. That way, you get a wider range of motion, otherwise called ROM, between your joints. Meanwhile, to gain this extra flexibility, you need to devote a large chunk of time. Besides, everyday stretching will not suffice for the added benefit unless the stretches are done very correctly and held on for a reasonable amount of time.
Stretching after a strenuous workout is often overlooked. Come to think of it-who wants to stretch tired and sore muscles? Meanwhile, it is tremendously essential as it fosters the flexibility of our muscles and reduces the tension within, just after a workout session. Basically, Stretching should be an inevitable part of a well-balanced workout routine and is a highly recommended practice. The role it performs in our lives cannot be overemphasized, ranging from injury prevention to the physiological and psychological effects. Think of the step as a warm-up before exercise, workout, and cool-down after exercise. In this case, you can interpret cooling down as stretching-where you literally return your muscle and tendons to their normal states.
Altogether, some of the benefits of stretching after a workout are: increased flexibility, improved blood circulation, pain prevention, energy enhancement, etc. Others include:
- It helps eliminate lactic acid
- It fosters an improved ROM
- Ensures a better muscular coordination
- For mental clarity and the accurate mind-body connection.
Moreover, if you ever noticed your workout routine has not been yielding as much as it should, it could probably be because of the too short or too long time spent holding your stretches. Why would somebody want to let all those efforts be a complete waste of time?
Stretching is fine-but holding it for as long enough is best. According to Mike Vigneau, an athletic trainer and Associate Director of Sports Medicine for Football at Boston college, “Muscles have injury prevention structures in them that prevent you from getting much of a benefit out a stretch that lasts less than 20 seconds.”
While stretching could be before a workout or after, the only time you should spend so much time stretching before workout is if you intend doing some corrective stretching in order to increase the ROM in a joint. This is some recommendation by health experts. Ideally, what the prior stretching does is to open up a joint, which might not be really necessary in case proper mobility exists in the joint already. Stretching can be categorized into static, activity, dynamic, ballistic, isometric, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Static stretching is, however, the most common type. This is where you are required to hold your body still for a particularly fixed period of time for the purpose of elongating your muscle.
Moreover, you tend to decrease cardiovascular efficiency by about 3% and strength by about 30% when you engage in static stretching before a workout. Therefore, it is massively necessary to reserve such static stretching for after-workouts. Each stretch at this stage is meant to be held for about 30 seconds, even though you may have to do more than a set for your calves, especially muscle groups which are just fairly responsive to a set of stretching.
Holding stretches for a far too short period of time defeats the actual purpose, while holding them for far too long can injure you. Hence, the need to determine how long or short a stretch should be held, particularly after a workout. Further, it is noteworthy that you must not stretch a cold muscle before engaging in the stretching. Basically, try to do some 5-10 minutes warm-up before the stretching- that is, after a workout. Each stress must be maintained for 30 seconds and nothing more lest you tear your muscle. Contrariwise, holding a stretch for less than 10 seconds is some futile efforts. For an effective stretch, it is recommended that you perform each stress like three times and twice a week so as to maintain your already increased flexibility.
Moreover, it doesn’t have to be hard work. You can do simple stretches such as standing with your feet, keeping the width of your should some width apart, and your knees slightly bent. You can also lean forward and just place your hands above your knees, but ensure they do not exceed 30 seconds per round. Meanwhile, some basic post-workout stretches you can do are quad stretch, hamstring/calf stretch, inner thigh stretch, etc.
Indeed, stretching after workouts can significantly minimize any kind of muscle fatigue. Not only that, it enhances your muscles recovery, especially after a tough gym session. All the bend and stretch- where your neck, chest & biceps, triceps, hamstrings, quads, back, hips and glutes are minimally stretched in intervals of 25-30 seconds before release is critical to living a healthy and really fit life. That way, your body will be reset to its natural position and posture.
Therefore, as often as you want to complete multiple sets of an exercise or workout, it is recommended that you do several bouts of static holds to get the optimum results. And talking about best results- doing the stretching right after the gym session is best. A good stretch to start with is the pigeon stretch- which opens up your hips and gives you incredible freedom in your sub-structure. Keep in mind that the static stretching is best saved for post-workout, as against what any high school coach might have taught you that you try it pre-exercise.
For some mouth-watering experience that ensures your after-exercise sweat does not just go in vain, it is important to know what to do post-workout. From there, you will be able to tell exactly how to adjust your routine for obvious progress and necessary results.
Other suggested ways of stretching after workouts are: using a foam roller, refuelling with post-exercise nutrition, and taking a cool shower in the heat.
While everyone or anyone can be flexible overtime when they work at it, regular training gives the muscles the much-required adaptability and response to flexibility and particularly, the ones who can stretch enough tend to have more flexibility than the rest.