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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pre vs. Post Workout Stretching

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Stretching is an important part of exercise. Stretching can help prevent injuries, helps with correct posture, reduces muscle soreness, and can help decrease tension and stress. It is definitely an important element to add to your regular fitness routine!

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with stretching and have been doing it since gym class in middle school. That doesn't necessarily mean we are doing it correctly or at the right times though. Did you know there are different types of stretches pre verses post workout? I did not know that until the last few years, so I am here to share with you what I have learned!

Pre-workout stretching
Before you start a workout, it is important to get blood flow to your tissues to "warm up" your muscles. To do this, we use dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching can help decrease injury by getting your body ready to work! It can also help increase performance by increasing your range of motion (helping to make you more limber) and enhances the strength of your muscles for when you start your workout.

Dynamic stretches are basically anything that keeps your body moving while you stretch. Here are some examples of dynamic stretches:
*High knees
*Jumping jacks
*Walking lunges
*High kicks
*Butt kicks
*Arm circles
*Brisk walking or slow jogging

Ideally, your pre-workout stretching should take at least 5 minutes.

Post-workout stretching
The most common type of stretching we see people do, called static stretching, should only be done once your muscles are warmed up, which is why it is best to do post-workout. Performing static stretching before a workout can actually increase the risk of injury, however, it is a good way to cool down muscles afterward. Static stretching can help decrease muscle soreness, increase coordination, and help with range of motion and flexibility.

Static stretching is anything that elongates the muscle and is done in a holding position. You want to feel some discomfort (not pain) when you are performing a static stretch, and it should be held for at least 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes. Some examples of static stretching include:
*Crossing one arm at a time across body
*Laying on back and pulling bent leg towards chest
*Quad stretch (Standing on one leg with other leg bent back and holding onto the top of the foot)
*Hamstring stretch (put one leg up on a chair and lean into it until you feel a stretch)
*Calf stretch
*Laying on back and bending one leg while twisting across body
*Abdominal stretch (lay on stomach and push chest up with arms while keeping hips on floor)
*Bending one leg across the other and twisting body away from foot

Your post-workout stretch should ideally last at least 5 minutes.

I notice a huge difference in how sore I feel after I workout if I stretch adequately compared to not stretching. It is also fun to see your flexibility increase the more you stretch!

Have a great Saturday!

All photography credit to Xan's Eye Photography

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