Stretching – When To Do It?

Stretching – When To Do It?

More often then not, you would see amateur and professional athletes stretching before and after exercise. But is it really necessary? What would happen if we don’t stretch? In this article, I will clear up the debate about stretching and whether you need to do it. Please keep in mind that this is my opinion and not recommended by any doctors or medical professionals. Please consult a doctor before attempting any new training or nutrition routine.

 

Why stretch?

Before performing any type if exercise, it is recommended that you stretch. The primary reason for stretching is to avoid injury and to improve flexibility. It it thought that by bending and focusing on the eccentric part of the movement of a specific muscle is that it will warm up the muscle and the joints. When in most cases is true but it is not necessary to activate a muscle or for muscle growth. Stretching is also believed to reduce soreness in the muscle. This is different from warming up. Warming up is considered by doing lighter weights and moderate repetitions in order to pump blood into that certain muscle group. With more blood into the muscle, the likelihood of injury is greatly reduced. The problem is when most people stretch and then go directly into the working sets of their exercise routine.

When should I stretch?

I believe that warming up before exercise is more important than stretching. The reason that I say this is because if you do not know how to properly stretch, you could injure yourself even before you start. That’s one of the benefits of stretching! This could bring your progress in the gym to a screeching halt. Warming up on the other hand allows for better circulation to that muscle group your training and also allows for better mind-muscle connection. If you do stretch, you should perform foam rolling after your workout. It is better to stretch afterwards because as you exercise, that muscle has more and more blood pumped into it and as a result tightens and breaks down due to physical activity. By foam rolling, you are able to push the lactic acid build up out of your muscles and thus reduce soreness. This also improves muscle activation by stretching the fascia of the muscle which allows for more muscle fibers to be targeted.

Why foam roll?

Foam rolling has been around for years but most people don’t know what it is used for. By using a foam roller before or after your workout, it allows for increased blood and oxygen flow to the muscle. It also effectively reduces toxins building up in your muscles during exercise. By doing so it also greatly reduces soreness and fatigue. Which will improve performance in the gym. Imagine you being able to go to a massage therapist after every workout and not paying for it! Please keep in mind that foam rolling in the beginning will be uncomfortable due to your body not being used to the pressure but will improve dramatically the more you use it. You could also use a tennis ball if you suffer from plantar fasciitis like I did for several years.

How do I foam roll?

If you look at the image above, it will show you the start points for each muscle group except the arms. For the arms you would place the foam roller close to your armpit and roll against the foam roller until you get to the wrist and then reverse the movement. Please remember to take your time when foam rolling to prevent injury. Slow and methodical movements will allow each muscle group and the muscle fibers to be properly stretched. There should be anywhere between 5-10 seconds in each direction for each movement. Do as many repetitions as needed to engage the muscle.

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