As you’re getting ready for your workout it seems like a no-brainer to warm up your muscles before you start by engaging in some light stretching. Most people don’t understand the benefits that come with stretching and it can be confusing to know which stretches are going to reap the most benefits. There are a few types of stretching though and they include Dynamic, Static, Passive, and Active.
Dynamic stretching is done before and during the workout, it requires you to go through every motion repeatedly. Dynamic stretching requires joints and muscles to go through a full range of motion. In comparison to dynamic stretching, static stretching is also done during the workout and afterward, but this stretch is held longer where the body will stay still. This stretching focuses more on a single muscle group per stretch. Passive stretching requires assistance from equipment so that your body relaxes while gravity and the equipment do the work for you. This stretch is most commonly done at the end of the workout. Lastly, active stretching involves contracting the opposing muscles to the area you are relaxing into the stretch. Active stretching stimulates and prepares muscles for use during exercise.
When you start your workout routine with stretching, you are helping your body access a more range of motion along with preventing injury, reducing fatigue, and increasing your energy and motivation. When muscles haven’t moved for a lengthened time, blood accumulates. When you revitalize circulation in your muscles, you’ll feel an increase in your energy levels because the blood will be flowing the way it needs to up through the brain – especially when stretching the spine and back. Actively stretching will increase your coordination, give you more body awareness and reduce potential lactic acid build-up which can cause cramping. When you stretch after your workouts, you are giving your body the needed recovery time to repair itself and allowing it to receive blood flow. The recovery process is accelerated in comparison to if you just ended your workout without properly stretching.
Stretching relaxes the muscles which helps to dissolve any accumulated lactic acid. Taking time during your workouts to stretch will help you to gauge any tension or fatigue you have before beginning a workout. Stretching when your muscles feel tired will help you re-establish pathways from your mind to the muscles so you feel more coordinated and reduce the risk of cramping. Stretching throughout your day is also a great way to be focused and keep your body healthy if you have a desk job.
Always remember to breathe properly while stretching and let your body feel the stretch for about 20 seconds per movement. If you start to feel pain, you are straining your muscles and doing more harm than good. Talking with your doctor or fitness trainer is a great way to see which stretching regime will benefit you the most. Taking a ten-minute break to do some light stretching will get your blood pumping again and your body will thank you. You’ll start to feel more energized due to the rush of fresh oxygen you pump into your muscles.