Every middle school gym coach emphasizes the importance of stretching. But that message is often forgotten or ignored. As much as you may not want to believe it, your whistle-blowing P.E coach was right. Stretching is an important part of every workout routine and shouldn’t be ignored. To prove it, here are a few benefits of a stretching preworkout routine.
Why is stretching important?
Stretching offers a long list of benefits, each as useful as the next.
1. Decreases your chance of injury
With exercise comes an opportunity for injury. But stretching decreases the likelihood of injury. It improves your range of motion, which means that your body can handle movements it may not usually tolerate. Common injuries, like back injuries, are much less common when stretching is involved. And you also limit muscle soreness, which (when it’s extreme) can also keep you from exercising. Most importantly, you prevent muscle strains. Although it may not sound like a big deal, a bad muscle strain can leave you out of the gym for weeks.
2. Improves your energy and mood
Even if you love exercising, you probably have some days when you just can’t seem to get into the groove. Fortunately, stretching can help you with that. Stretching is the perfect way to wake up your mind and body gradually. It loosens any tight muscles and prepares your body for an intense workout. No one wants to start off a workout feeling tense and tired. Stretching gives you the boost you need to start things off on the right foot.
3. Increases stamina
When you properly stretch, you loosen your muscles and tendons. Doing this before a workout means that your oxygen can flow efficiently through your body. As your workout progresses, this efficiency prevents your muscles from experiencing fatigue. With a proper preworkout routine, you may be able to squeeze in a few extra reps or a few more miles.
4. Improves your body awareness
A warm-up challenges both your balance and coordination. By the time you start exercising, your balance and coordination will be exactly where it needs to be. You don’t need to waste workout time trying to get your body working optimally.
Other Benefits of Stretching
In addition to all the benefits of stretching before your workout, there are many benefits to stretching in general. If you regularly stretch, your flexibility improves over time. And as your flexibility improves, your physical performance improves. It takes your body less energy to perform certain tasks, and as a result, you expend less energy.
Another major benefit of stretching is stress reduction. While exercise reduces stress, stretching has the same effect. Chances are, you have enough stress that you can use all the help you can get. Whether you stretch before gym class, at work, or at the end of a long day, stretching can help your frustrations to melt away.
Stretching, along with exercise, also has the potential to reduce your cholesterol. So if you want to avoid high cholesterol and the heart disease that can come with it, find some time to stretch every day.
Incorporating Stretching Into Your Preworkout Routine
Gone are the days of boring toe touches. Although you can still do your old-school PE stretches (known as static stretches), dynamic stretching is a critical part of any effective preworkout routine. Dynamic stretches differ from dynamic ones in that they involve movement. Your movements stretch your muscles, but you don’t stand still and hold the stretch. You do continuous movements that prepare your body for exercise.
Dynamic stretching might sound confusing, but it’s more common than you might realize. In fact, you’ve probably been doing dynamic stretches for years. Here are a few dynamic stretches that are commonly used in preworkouts:
- Lunges with a twist: walking lunges with a twist towards the forward leg
- T push-ups: a push-up, but twisting one one arm up towards the sky every time you come up
- Leg Swings: Swinging one leg out high in front while you walk, alternating legs each step
- Knees to chest: sprinting in place, but bringing each knee up to your chest (or as high as it will go)
- Jump Squats: Going down into a squat, then jumping high off the ground repeatedly
A good dynamic stretching warm-up combines several different dynamic stretches and will get your heart rate going. In addition to the stretching, it’s also a good idea to include a few minutes of cardio to your preworkout routine.
Making The Most of Your Workout
Skipping out on stretching makes your workouts less effective. If you’re going to put in the time to exercise, it’s worth putting in a few extra minutes to prepare your body for it. You might as well be mentally and physically ready for the best possible workout. Stretch before exercise and make every minute in the gym count.