Forgetting to stretch or consciously choosing to not do it at all may not seem like such a big deal. After all, the workout itself is what really matters most, right? Well, not exactly.
“Stretching shouldn’t be something we think to do just when we’re feeling sore or extra tight,” says Lindsay Bennett, celebrity personal trainer. From improving posture to increasing flexibility, here are four reasons why experts say stretching is so important.
Stretching prepares your body for the workout you’re about to do
According to Bennett, stretching mobilizes your joints and prepares them for movement. It also increases blood flow to certain parts of the body, which helps prevent injuries. “Think of a rubber band,” she says. “If you try to pull it apart before giving it a few tugs to loosen it, you’ll most likely snap it in two. However, if you give it a few gentle tugs to warm it up and then stretch it out, you’ll get much more stretch and movement out of it without breaking it. Your muscles are the same way. They must be properly prepped before so that they don’t incur any injury.”
As part of your pre-workout routine, you want to do dynamic movement-based stretches over traditional static ones, which are held for a certain period of time. Dynamic stretches include things like leg swings, lunging in place, bodyweight squats, or arm circles. For some inspiration, you can try this stretching routine with Venus Williams.
Dynamic stretching can improve your workouts
“The goal of warming up is to empower you with absolute body control,” says Cam Speck, trainer and co-founder of Fitplan. “Both cardio and resistance training hinge upon repetitive, fluid motions.” When blood is circulating freely and your body is loosened up, you’ll be able to better execute your workout to the best of your ability. Try a five-minute warmup that’s easy to do to get your body and mind ready for your workout ahead.
Stretching can help reverse the effects of bad posture
If you’re someone who spends most of your day sitting at your desk, chances are, your posture could use a little improvement. In fact, studies have found that being chained to your desk for hours can lead to lower back pain. According to Sassy Gregson-Williams, certified personal trainer and founder of Naturally Sassy, stretching fixes your alignment. “If you fix your alignment, your body will move better and feel better,” she says.
Sitting all day can inhibit your gluteal muscles. This can make simple butt exercises like squats feel a little more challenging than usual. Luckily, this stretch sequence, demonstrated by Gregson-Williams herself, is a fun and unique way to stretch while working out your glutes.
Stretching post-workout will help you remain flexible
“Although stretching before a workout is extremely important, I also recommend stretching after as well in order to reduce soreness and maintain flexibility,” says Bennett. After a good workout, your muscles can get tight and sore. So spending a few minutes on static stretching can do wonders for your body both immediately and in the long run. Some examples of static stretches include a standing quad stretch, a standing toe-touch stretch, or a sitting hamstring stretch.
xx, The FabFitFun Team