Today’s post is a guest post from one of our very own Fit Body Boot Camp owners—Kelly Sullens! Kelly is the owner of Arrowhead Fit Body Boot Camp in Glendale, Arizona, and she’s going to tell you all about the importance of stretching.
Has anyone ever reminded you that before and after working out, you should always stretch out?
Well, prior to becoming a fitness professional, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of stretching was yoga. I mean, stretching and yoga go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly, right?
But what about boot camp, cardio, walking, or other types of physical activity? It turns out, stretching is just as important for all those activities too.
So, what is the best way to go about stretching to help warm the body up and keep your muscles loose? Let’s talk about it!
Why is Stretching So Important?
Stretching is crucial for keeping your muscles loose, elongated, and healthy so that you’re able to move your body effectively and keep it at peak performance.
Have you ever heard of a friend or loved one getting injured from working out because they didn’t stretch?
It’s unfortunately very commonplace to sustain an injury if the muscles haven’t been properly warmed up and stretched. During a workout, the muscles in your body tend to shorten. This is a good thing, because it means your muscles are becoming leaner and more powerful, but it also means you need to be careful to avoid injury.
Think about professional boxers as an example. If they fight without stretching first, it causes a loss of power in their jabs, uppercuts, and kicks. It doesn’t matter how tough or strong they are, by the end of the match they’re going to lose because their muscles are too tight.
So, just as it’s important for professional boxers, it’s important to stretch to increase your power and strength for any type of physical activity.
Bottom line? If you’re looking to get the most out of your workout, always stretch out first!
When Should We Stretch?
There’s always a little confusion about the best time to stretch, but as a general rule, it’s always best to stretch when the muscles are already warmed up and flexible.
So, does that mean you should stretch before your workout or after?
Why not both? That’s what I recommend.
Stretching post-workout provides your muscles the maximum lengthening and strengthening benefits, meaning you’ll get more of that leaning and toning effect you want from a good workout.
Stretching prior to working out helps protect you against injury, which makes sure you can give your best effort and get the best results from your workout.
Also, when you stretch pre-workout, make sure you do it gently and combine it with some light cardio.
How Long Should We Stretch and What Muscles Should We Stretch?
The length of time that you stretch is fully up to you, however stretching is most beneficial when held for a minimum of 30 seconds. If your muscles are extra tight, try stretching for up to 1 minute per stretch and repeat as necessary.
Focus your stretching on whichever muscle groups you just worked out or plan to work out.
For example, if you just did a vigorous upper body workout, stretching the muscles of your upper body will be the best way to avoid injury and maximize your results.
Stretching is Not Just for the Muscles!
That means while you stretch and elongate your muscles, other areas of your body and mind tend to relax. Automatic brain functions such as the control over blood pressure and heart rate, will regulate due to the process of stretching.
In addition, stretching will also help regulate your metabolism, mood, and emotional state, due to the brain’s hormone secretion.
So, whenever you find yourself in need of a quick mood-lifter, take some time to perform some simple stretches!
Extra Stretching Tidbits
- Vigorous stretching while the muscles are cold (i.e., prior to working out) will leave your muscles more susceptible to injury. Keep it gentle for pre-workout stretching.
- Don’t bounce! Moving smoothly while stretching will help lengthen your muscles and reduce the risk of tearing.
- Just keep breathing through it. Holding your breath while stretching could cause an increase in blood pressure and deprive your muscles of oxygen. Practice inhaling while moving into your stretch position and exhaling as you hold your stretch.
- Stretching will help your muscles break up lactic acid build-up, which will help reduce soreness.
- It shouldn’t be painful. While stretching, you should feel tightness and, at the most, light discomfort. Stop stretching if it’s painful. That could be a sign that you need to get checked out by a medical professional.
- Stretching is a great way to link your body and mind!
So, You’re Saying I Should Stretch?
That’s a resounding YES! Stretching is not just for yogis!
Stretching will give you longer, leaner muscles and will help you perform better.
Not only that, but stretching is also linked to a happier, healthier mind. Stress can make your muscles rigid, which makes you feel locked up and can lead to even more stress.
Stretching can help to reduce stress levels in times of tension. In fact, you can even use stretching as a stress-relief outside of working out. If you’re having a stressful day at work, you can take a five-minute break and do some quick stretches to loosen up your mind and body.
So, if you’re looking to lean out, build power, live happier, and perform better, then add stretching into your daily routine!