How you stretch before and after a workout can impact the effectiveness of your exercise and prevent injury or soreness later. Implement these stretching tips next time your hit the gym or a fitness class.
Maintain your breathing
Breathe in and out consistently while you’re warming up, stretching, and exercising. It’s common for people to hold their breath while holding a stretch. However, this can prevent your muscle from receiving the oxygenated blood it needs to fully stretch.
Breathe deeply in through your nose, hold for a second or two, and then exhale through your mouth; repeat in an even pattern until the stretch is complete.
Warm up your muscles
Cold muscles can be stiff and hard to stretch properly. Make sure you try jogging in place or stretching somewhere warmer to loosen you muscles. If you put your muscles in different warm and cold environments rapidly it can be dangerous, so be sure to stick to either an indoor or an outdoor environment with a consistent temperature if you can.
Stretch to a comfortable limit
When you stretch your muscles, it shouldn’t hurt. It can feel uncomfortable, but don’t stretch them to the point of straining and sharp pains. This can cause strains that will leave you more susceptible to injury during your workout.
Hold the stretch
Stretches should be held for an appropriate amount of time. If you hold it for too short of a time, you risk not thoroughly stretching the muscle enough. On the other hand, if you stretch the muscle for too long can result in the risk of muscle, tendon, or ligament damage.
It’s recommended that you hold a stretch for a total of 60 seconds. You can hold a stretch for increments if you prefer. For example, you can stretch your muscles for increments of 20 seconds and repeat three times.
Use the right stretches
It’s equally important to use the right kinds of stretches. Pre-exercise and post-exercise stretches should be different. Here’s what you can try.
Fluid stretches first
Dynamic stretches are best before a workout because it introduces more blood flow to your entire body.
- High knees
- Leg swings
- Arm circles
- Jumping jacks
Save static stretches for after
Static stretches, or cool down stretches, are stretches that don’t involve any movement other than the isolated group of muscles bring stretched. Here are a few examples of static stretches you can try after your workout.
- Toe touch
- Seated butterfly
- Quadricep stretch
- Knee to chest
- Cat/cow stretches
- Calf stretch