Why Stretch?

Why Stretch?

Across so many disciplines of sport people do not stretch, to add insult to injury I have realised this week that not all Personal Trainers will stretch off their clients at the end of a routine, rather they take it for granted that a client will do this themselves after a session. This has provided great inspiration to write a quick blog on stretching and why we should stretch.

Stretching Pre-workout: Injury prevention is the main reason for this. When going for a workout you are planning on go hard and heavy in a work intensity sense no matter what fitness discipline you are, you want to get the most for your minutes, the best and safest way to ensure you can achieve this is to stretch in the your warm up.  At this point you should be thinking about the exercise you are doing and looking to primarily dynamically stretch the muscle groups associated with the exercises of your main workout. Dynamic stretching simply means to stretch and keep flow of movement, (not bouncing this is ballistic) For instance look at the image below:

The heart rate should start to increase and muscles should start to feel warm as the blood is pushed through the capillaries at a higher rate ensuring good oxygen flow which tells the body that it’s preparing for exercise.

Stretching Post -workout: having a good cool down routine ensures the blood flow is eased back to normal rate which prevents blood pooling in the lower extremities, or in plain English will prevent the onset of dizzy spells and nausea after high energy training as the blood flow in controlled and eased back to its normal rate. The purpose of cool down stretching therefore is to relax the muscle groups after the effort of constant contraction. Post workout stretching may help gain flexibility too as your muscles will naturally stretch a little further than before you started as they are nice and warm from your workout. Cool down stretching should be static, stretch and hold pattern, see image below:

Please note, To increase flexibility proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is the common method, as with lifting the aim of PNF is to push into a zone of discomfort, I advise stretching PNF with someone like a Personal Trainer/Physiotherapist who understands the limitations and dangers of PNF and knows how to gain the benefits. If you are a novice or do not understand the body in relation to exercise always take any exercise under guidance from an exercise professional, stretching is regarded as an exercise.

Take home Message: Stretching ensures safe practice and helps prevents injuries such as muscle tear, ligament damage, strains and sprains.

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