Do I Really Need to Stretch Before Training?
We all know that stretching is important, especially for athletes and people who regularly do fitness training. We take a closer look at the benefits of stretching, and whether it’s necessary to stretch before and after each workout session.
For many people, stretching exercises seem like something that’s good to have, but not necessary. While some feel that stretching their legs for a few seconds is enough, or that their treadmill session can act as their warm-up and exercise all in one. But it turns out, how and when you stretch your muscles has a big impact on your fitness goals.
But is it really necessary to stretch before every exercise session?
Research has shown that stretching before or after exercise won’t necessarily reduce injuries or prevent sore muscles. But it can assist with overall flexibility and increase the range of motion for your joints, so there are benefits to stretching after all.
Different Types of Stretches
There are different types of stretches that you can do with your fitness training routines:
- Dynamic stretches: These are repetitive, gentle movements like arm swings, where you increase your range of motion gradually and never overwork a joint.
- Static stretches: These work to stretch a muscle to the point of discomfort, while holding that point for around 30 seconds, and then releasing the stretch.
- Ballistic stretches: These involve a stretch with jerking or bouncing movements to help increase your range of motion.
- Proprioceptive stretches: These stretching exercises usually involve holding a stretch, while you contract and release a muscle.
The amount of flexibility you need will vary according to your athletic goals. For example, if you are a jogger, you won’t need to be as flexible as a professional gymnast. Having too much flexibility in a muscle may reduce its ability to perform, while having too little for a specific activity can lead to a sprain or injury. That’s why it’s important to understand your specific fitness needs, or work with a trainer if you are preparing for a specific event.
What Happens When We Stretch?
The finer details of what happens during stretching exercises is not well-known, but regular stretching will increase your flexibility and allow your muscles to be supple. You are training your nervous system to tolerate longer stretches over time.
According to Dr Polly McGuigan from the University of Bath, it’s not very clear whether the improvement in range of motion is due to your body’s ability to tolerate a longer stretch, or whether it’s due to a physical change in the muscle that control the joint.
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