The debate on whether stretching is good for the muscles and the body still rages on. Some studies suggest that stretching before or after exercise has no bearing on performance, injury prevention or flexibility.
Other studies advocate stretching as being paramount in relation to better performance, reducing the risk of injury and allowing greater flexibility by elongating the muscle. So what’s the verdict, is it worth doing or just a waste of time? Here’s what I personally think about stretching from my experience.
WHY IS STRETCHING IS GOOD BEFORE A WORKOUT? LEARN THE 3 REASONS HERE
1. CUT DOWN THE RECOVERY PERIOD AFTER WORKOUTS
After 30 years of weight training and numerous injuries to muscles all over my body, especially in my early years, I now do a light stretch and thorough warm up before every weight or cardio session. I have found that it not only feels good to get some blood pumping through the areas of my body I’m about to train, but it seems to be a factor in cutting down the recovery period after my workouts.
After a thorough stretch and warm up by slowly working my muscles with light weights before I hit the heavier weights, I seem to feel less sore for the next day after my workout than if I don’t stretch much beforehand.
2. STRETCH BEFORE WORKOUT TO AVOID INJURIES
In the gym each day, I see so many exercisers walk into the weight room and start loading up the bar and blasting away on their maximum weight from the very first set. On countless occasions, I have witnessed torn muscles and numerous ligament and tendon injuries. Having suffered from these myself, it’s almost always after not stretching or warming up properly or not at all.
Nowadays, it’s an automatic part of my pre-workout routine. If I didn’t have time to do an adequate stretch and warm up before my training session, I would reschedule it for another time. As a result, I rarely ever get injuries now into my 40s and I am still pushing medium to heavy weights on certain days.
If I’m working on the medium heavy weights on that particular day, I’ll spend even longer warming up to my heaviest weight, giving the muscles a good stretch between sets and completing each rep with a full range of motion.
This means allowing the muscle to fully elongate and then fully contract for every rep of each set. Sometimes when training with your heavier weights, on the last couple of reps you may not be able to complete a full rep, but for most sets and always during your warm-up phase, you must complete a full range of motion.
3. HELPS INCREASE THE CIRCULATION OF BLOOD
Stretching is not only important, in my opinion, before and during weight sessions, it’s also of benefit before any type of aerobic or cardiovascular workout. It helps by increasing the circulation of blood into the muscles, which allows your muscles to elongate as much as one and a half times their relaxed size.
Allowing more blood into the muscle before periods of exercise minimises the chance of injury during your training and like I mentioned before, decreases your recovery time after the workout. This allows you the opportunity to train effectively more often as your muscles and tendons become accustomed to more intense and frequent exercise.
When I wake up every morning I seem to unconsciously stretch my body out in all sorts of directions, stretching my arms out fully or bringing my legs up to my chest to give my lower back a good stretch, among other stretching movements. I do this because it feels good and helps me wake up, perhaps, by helping to bring blood to parts of my body after I’ve been sleeping in certain positions.
So, one of the reasons I believe stretching is beneficial to me is because it makes me feel better and if it instinctively feels good, it probably is.