The Importance of Stretching [Train Smart Wednesday]

 

Photo rights to http://www.brianmac.co.uk

Photo rights to http://www.brianmac.co.uk

Hello out there!

Coach Jeff here again for another sweet article in our “Train Smart Wednesday” series.

Lately, we have been talking about how to get the most out of your exercises and increase your strength and performance. But what about after the final rep is completed and your session is concluded? What you do after your session can have a dramatic impact on the next one. Lets explore why stretching post workout is so important.

When you are in a relaxed state, your muscles are at their normal length and not exerting much force. During exercise, the weight must be moved by the muscles contracting(shortening) which brings a large of amount of tension to them. Through your sets and reps, your muscles have lengthened and shortened over and over to complete the specific movement. This leaves the muscles fatigued and in a more inflamed state after your workout. Our goal is to return the muscles to their normal length to reduce soreness and prevent a hindered range of motion.

You can see why it would be important to implement a quality stretching routine to help alleviate some of that built up tension within the muscular system. Not only will stretching help reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness), but it will also help set you up for better results in your next workout. Sure, you can do some dynamic movements before your next session to get your blood flowing to the tissues, but if there is still increased tension in the muscle it will be harder to achieve proper positioning and muscle lengths during certain movements.

How many times have you come in the next day after a hard workout and found that sitting anywhere near parallel or lower feels like your hips and quads are going to tear? This again is caused by the tension in the muscles and them being physically pulled away from their original positioning. So not only will this prevent us from our desired performance, it can also be a set up for a nasty injury keeping us out for much longer than any soreness would. All of that just because you didn’t take a couple minutes to stretch the night before? No thanks!

The key areas I like to address when getting into a stretching routine are the Quads, Hamstrings, Hip flexors, and the lower back. Tension on any one of these areas can affect the others and also create poor posture. The Hurdlers stretch, Iron cross stretch, lying hamstring stretch, and kneeling hip flexor stretch are some of my favorites to incorporate. Each of these stretches can be held for 45-60 seconds per side 1 to 2 times through for great results.

Another great benefit of stretching that many people overlook is the relaxed state it can put the mind in. Simply taking 10 to 15 minutes to stretch and relax can be a great release of stress and improve recovery. Everything in the body starts with the mind, so relieving any type of stress (physical or mental) is considered a form of recovery, which can not be ignored. This relaxation of the mind is a great recharge for the body to help it get back to a normal condition which will in turn promote better sleep (the most important form of recovery). It should be pretty easy to see now why implementing this into your nightly routine can make a world of difference in your exercise and every day life. Now get out there and step your stretch game up!

– Coach Jeff

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