What is the point of stretching?

So, you are in the gym. Its been an hour of hard work, sweating it out, high cardio, maybe some heavy lifting, a focused session where you've pumped iron and ready to get out while you're on a high. Sounding like a good idea to do 15 minutes stretching to really finish it off? Probably not. A little bit of time wasting, will probably lose the buzz and perhaps just plain boring.

This is the attitude of many a gym goer who leave the gym on that high endorphin-fuelled level and think YES! workout done and who cares about tomorrow. However, the benefits of taking a short 10 minutes to bring your body temperature down and take some tension out of your muscles that you've just caned in the weights section, are great enough to hold you back from your protein shake for another few minutes, not to mention the added benefits during recovery.


So perhaps you are feeling negative about the feeling of stopping the workout and lying on a mat in compromising yoga positions trying to squeeze your head as close to your knees as you can for an embarrassing length of time. Well it doesn't have to be that way! Keep the focus on the muscles that need stretching out- only the muscles that feel tight and have been worked can be your focus, all others can wait; so if stretching isn't for you then just prioritise the areas that need it.


So what's the point? The point is that after continual contracting of your muscles throughout your workout, all of your targeted agonists are left in a shortened state, and will remain this way unless you stretch them out back to their natural position that will in turn reduce the onset of muscle soreness in the following days. It's the metabolic waste build up that creates the pain so stretching increases the oxygen levels and nutrient delivery to the muscles and a result clears out the waste fluids, helping you to stay loose.




Dynamic stretching

What is it?

Dynamic stretching are active and paced movements of muscle that create a stretch but are not held in the end position. Best for a pre-workout warm up.


Why do it?

Dynamic stretches are an opportunity to mobilise and warm-up the muscles before using them in your workout. The movement allows your heart rate to increase in preparation for the workout. This is so important as at this point your brain is sending messages to the muscle fibres and connective tissues preparing them to do work. This increased blood flow to the working areas will create improved performance and greater recovery.


How do I do it?

The idea is that you push your muscles through slight stretches in motion. Below shows some ideas of all over body dynamic stretches.




Static stretching

What is it?

Static stretches are those held on a position for a given amount of time. These differ from the above dynamic stretching as they are motionless and take slightly longer to execute correctly.


Why do it?

Static stretching should always be part of a good cool-down routine. It allows the heart rate to come down slowly and increase circulation to the areas of the body that need it.


How do I do it?

Firstly try and focus on each muscle for 30 seconds at least to allow that painful stretch feeling to ease off. Hold still and don't bounce into the stretch as this causes the muscle spindles to contract as a protective knee-jerk reaction and completely contradicts the idea of stretching out the muscles in a relaxed state.

Once you have relaxed into the stretch and held it, that muscle pain and tightness should ease off and therefore allowing you to take it a little deeper and hold for a further 30 seconds.

So give the above ideas a try in your next session and see what difference it makes to your body in practice!


But! We must slow our reigns on the above- take a few minutes to warm-up before hitting the stretches hard... throwing your body straight into the stretches from cold is just as bad as not stretching at all. Give yourself a few minutes of active warm-up; something with a cardio element involved. This could be a walk or light cycle before stretching out. With this advice you should be well set for the workout ahead of you!

Already a boss at stretching and need to take that stretch one step further? Find out all you need to know about Foam Rolling in Olivia’s Blog on the Blog Page!