The Importance of Stretching

Blog, Exercise & Training, Health, Injury, Lifestyle

I’ve been guilty in the past for not stretching half as much as I should’ve done…

You finish a workout and all you want to do is either: eat, shower or crack on with the rest of your day.

However, we all know how much better we feel after stretching off. So in today’s post I’m going to talk about the importance of stretching.

Reduced Soreness & Fatigue

Stretching, especially after a workout, can help to reduce the muscle soreness and fatigue that you feel the next day. By holding static stretches (I like to hold them for 30-60 seconds after a workout) you help to disperse any lactic acid that’s built up in the muscle.

By stretching off the muscle post workout, you can move with a lot less stiffness and it is more likely to speed up your recovery time, so that you can train more effectively and efficiently in your next workout.

Improves your Range of Motion

Range of Motion - StretchingWe’ve all had it, when you’ve not stretched off after a session and a day or two later you’re really stiff. This generally stops you from being able to experience a full range of motion and therefore limits the amount of movement in your body and your muscles.

Stretching, however, helps to lessen the effects of muscle tightness. Meaning that you’re able to move a lot more; with a lot less discomfort.

It also helps to increase flexibility, meaning that your range of motion will improve with time and consistency too!

Better Muscular & Bodily Function

Thanks to the fact that we sit down a lot and that most of us generally have poor posture, our bodies become a little weaker as a result. This is because the muscles can become “chronically tense” and generally tighter.

However, regular stretching can help to alleviate this chronic tension and ease up the tightness within the muscles. It does this by helping to strengthen the muscle fibres; therefore meaning that the muscle can respond better to movement and other physical activity.

Joint Health

Believe it or not, muscle tightness can have a negative effect on our joints. That’s because a tight muscle can cause it’s opposing muscle to weaken.

Stretching however, can help to reduce the tightness in the muscle and maintain an equal balance between the two opposing muscles, providing equal pull on the joint.

This balance within the muscles supporting a joint allows for more freedom in regards to movement and also helps to protect the joint from damage due to imbalance.

Better Posture

Until a few weeks ago, when I went to see a Sports Therapist, I never quite realised the extent to which our posture was effected by tight muscles…

Good Posture - Stretching

As a boxer, my shoulders were rounded forwards as I had a tight chest and all of this was having a negative impact on the rest of my body, including my back and all the way down to my legs.

Ever since our first appointment I’ve implemented several changes into my life and my training regime and I’ve seen a huge improvement. The main area of improvement being that of my posture!

Regularly stretching our muscles and being less tense and more flexible, allows the body to assume it’s correct positioning and it’s natural posture.

This natural posture not only improves our muscles so that they sit correctly, but also helps them to become more efficient. Whilst creating a beneficial effect in the other muscles throughout the body.

For example, by stretching off my chest and pushing back my shoulders, I’ve got more core stability, which has in turn improved my posture and taken a lot of pressure off of my legs.

Adopting a Stretching Practice

With all of the above information, hopefully you will now realise the potential benefits of stretching and endeavour to get into the habit of practicing it regularly.

One of the best ways to get into the habit of stretching (for me personally) is to set aside 15 minutes in the day.

Bruce Lee - Stretching Side Kick

Within those 15 minutes, spend 5 minutes lightly raising your pulse and then the following 10 minutes going through a series of basic static stretches.

If you’re a bit more advanced then you can add in some dynamic stretches too.

My personal favourite athlete to take inspiration from, in regard to stretching, is Bruce Lee. Lee would stretch first thing in the morning (which is a great way to wake yourself up) and would look to do little bits of stretching at periods throughout the day.

Whilst you don’t have to be as extreme as someone like Bruce Lee, stretching is definitely a habit worth getting into and one that your body will thank you more and more for with every year that passes by.

Give stretching a go. Have fun with it and if you’re completely new to it, then make sure you seek out some advice first!

A Personal Note on Stretching

Since getting into the habit of daily stretching, it’s something that I’ve really begun to enjoy. It can actually become quite enjoyable and peaceful, whilst setting you up nicely for the day ahead.

It’s also particularly nice if you’re a person who often trains hard and puts in a lot of work or a lot of sessions. Stretching breaks up the intensity and allows you to relax a little, whilst still feeling some real big benefits!

Other Links, References & Posts:

Journal on Stretch/Flex

Health Harvard – The Importance of Flexibility

A Stretch is as Important as Exercise

The Bruce Lee Routine

Meditation

The Importance Of A Warm Up And Cool Down

 

What’s Better – Consistency or Intensity?

How Often Should We Exercise?

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