Stretching after a workout is well known for its benefits in reducing muscle soreness and injury prevention.
However, it has also been shown to increase strength, which is exactly what is desired for resistance training.
…What else is stretching good for?
The Benefits of Stretching
✓ Post-workout stretching
Stretching post-work out helps to improve your posture, which, as a result, makes your physique appear longer and leaner. This is due to the fact that when your muscles are tight, they can contribute to a “slouched” slumped over look.
Both men and women who lift weights can benefit from stretching for a mere 30-minutes twice-a-week, in regards to lifting heavier weights.
✓ Injury Prevention
Stretching the muscles helps to place them in their most productive position. This means that muscles that are lengthened from the process of stretching, can in fact generate more force than tight ones. This is also conductive to injury prevention as a tight muscle is a vulnerable one.
For example: if you have tight hamstrings and are trying to improve on your deadlift, this may result in you overarching your spine, causing a rounded back when it should be remaining straight throughout the movement.
✓ Recovery Aid
Dynamic stretches: pre-workout
Dynamic stretches are the best type to perform before your workout. These involve movement rather than holding a stretch in one position for a given amount of time as with static stretches.
Dynamic stretching increases the blood flow to the muscles and prepares the body for the workout ahead by reducing any tightness and warming up the muscles.
Static stretches: post-workout
Stretching has also been shown to aid in the recovery process if you are unfortunate enough to obtain an injury. Static stretches are easy to perform and are great post work-out, but should not be performed before a training session as the muscles are at their most flexible when they are warmed up.
Static stretches when practiced regularly have a number of health benefits as previously mentioned; from increasing flexibility, reducing discomfort after exercise, improving posture and increasing strength gains.
Stand with your body towards a wall and your left foot forward and right foot behind you, with both feet facing forwards.
Place your palms on the wall in front of you. Bend your front leg so that your knee is above your ankle and lean forwards from your waist.
Simultaneously, straighten your back leg and push your heel into the ground. Hold this position and then swap legs.
This is a one legged stretch and so you may find it helpful to lean against a wall for balance.
Lift your left leg off the floor and bring your heel behind your knee. Use your left hand to hold your foot at the ankle.
Your left knee should be towards the floor. Hold this position and then swap sides.
Squeeze your stomach as you place your arms in front of your body at chest height, pulling the shoulders down and away from your ears.
Hold your hands together with the palms facing outwards, keeping your arms straight and your elbows bent.
Pull your hands away from your torso while pushing the shoulders forwards so that you separate your shoulder blades and feel a stretch in your back. Hold this position.
Position your feet shoulder width apart. Squeeze your stomach muscles and pull back your shoulder blades keeping your arms stretched back at your sides.
Clasp your hands together and carefully raise your arms up behind you.
Tilt your head backwards so that you are looking up at the ceiling. Hold this position.
Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your left foot forwards in front of your body and position your heel on the floor with your toes pointing towards the ceiling.
Bend your right leg and rest your hands on your waist. Move your body weight on top of your bent leg as your lean forwards at the waist.
Hold this position then swap sides.
Position your feet hip width apart, hold stomach muscles tight and keep arms by your side.
Lift your left arm overhead so that your elbow and hand are aligned over your left shoulder. Bend your left arm, pointing the hand towards the ground and placing the palm on the left shoulder blade.
The top of your left arm should be near your ear with your elbow pointing up to the ceiling. Hold the position and then swap arms.
Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. Squeeze your stomach muscles tight and allow your arms to hang loosely by your sides.
Stretch your left arm across your torso at chest height. Place your right hand on your left arm at the elbow, applying a small amount of pressure so that you can feel a stretch in the left shoulder and upper back.
Hold this position and then swap sides.
Take Home Message
Taking the time to stretch is not only a relaxing and effective way to cooling down and reduce any post-exercise discomfort, but it may also help you reach your fitness goals sooner, enabling you to train more effectively and boost your strength.
There are plenty of different stretches – including the use of a foam roller – however, try incorporating a few of these simple stretches into your training routine to maximise the benefits of your workouts!