Gabriel’s Gains: On your mark, get set, stretch!

Photo by Jo Tabacek

There is no better reminder of the importance of stretching than getting injured after skipping this crucial step. After injury, everyday tasks like showering or walking up stairs can become tedious or downright difficult. However, there is an easy way to avoid these roadblocks and prevent an injury. Stretching, if implemented into your daily routine, can prevent injury, promote better posture and relieve stress. 

Flexibility is a large part of physical wellness. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the proper time to stretch statically is after a workout or while your muscles are warm and flexible. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that dynamic stretching before workouts is also beneficial. 

Static stretching is the act of holding a single stretch for 30 seconds or more. In order to avoid injury, one should refrain from stretching beyond what feels comfortable. You should remember to maintain controlled breathing, as breath can do wonders relieving the discomfort while stretching. By taking deep inhalations into your stomach and exhaling slowly, you can mitigate much of the discomfort and push your stretches further. 

You should implement static stretching after you have worked out or maintained physical activity for an extended time. Throughout your workout and physical activity, your muscles are producing lactic acid, which fatigues your body and creates sores muscles. By stretching, you are eliminating this lactic acid, relieving your muscles of further stress and improving your flexibility. 

Dynamic stretching is a whole new animal. Unlike static stretching, you want to implement dynamic stretching before working out. According to Boston University, dynamic stretching increases tissue temperature making them better prepared for activity. This improves performance and lower the chance of injury. 

Both dynamic and static stretching increase blood flow improving muscle recovery. Muscle growth happens when weight-bearing activities produce microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. When these tears heal, muscles grow and become stronger. 

Another benefit, according to ACE, is that increased flexibility decreases stress put on the spine which reduces the risk of lower back pain. Stretching does not just reduce the risk of injury  during an activity, it can also reduce the risk of developing a stress related injury to your back. 

Dynamic stretches you can perform before a workout include: high knees, a-skips, b-skips, c-skips, lunges with a torso twist, high kicks and jump squats. 

Great static stretches for after a workout include those you would find in a yoga routine. Downward dog, supine twist, child’s pose, crescent lunge, side lunge, pigeon and crab reach will increase your flexibility while ridding your muscles of lactic acid. 

Even though it is easy to overlook stretching, it is just as important to stretch as it is to workout. What is the point of having strength if you are consistently getting injured? Not only will you decrease the risk of injury, but you will enhance your muscle strength and agility. Whether you are working out or not, stretching is quick and easy to incorporate into anyone’s schedule.

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