We all hear about the importance of stretching, but you may be wondering what the actual benefits of stretching after a workout are.
Let’s go on to discover 5 benefits of stretching, as well as discuss whether you should stretch after a workout and some examples of effective stretches.
Benefits of stretching after a workout
1. Improve Flexibility
One of the most well known benefits of stretching is that it greatly improves flexibility. This makes daily movements easier and can also improve your exercise form.
2. Decrease Risk of injuries
Tight muscles have a greater risk of injury and can cause you to compensate in other areas of your body. So it is important to warm up before a workout and get some stretches in. This gets your body moving and your muscles ready for what is to come. Working out with cold tight muscles is uncomfortable and also risky, and so is not doing some type of stretching after a workout.
3. Release Tension
When your muscles are tight, it creates tension in your body. Imagine when you sit at a computer and you haven’t gotten proper movement in, then you roll your shoulders and get a neck stretch in. That shoulder and neck stretch release tension and let your body relax. Stretching after a workout does the same thing, and especially after high impact muscles and workouts where you push your body whether for conditioning or strength, encouraging your body to relax and let go of any residual tension feels great.
4. Reduced Soreness
At some point or another, everyone has experienced muscle soreness. Perhaps it was after strength training, a run, hike or walk, and the soreness stuck around for a couple of days. After an intense workout, however, you should go easy on the stretching as it can enlarge tiny tears in your muscle fibers. Day-after stretching is encouraged!
5. Improved Posture
When your muscles are tight, this often results in letting your posture slip. For example, if you do an intense upper body workout and not properly stretch, the next day you very well could feel stiff and compensate by rounding your shoulders and sliding your head forward rather than keeping them back. In the long-term, this could also create poor posture habits that are harder to correct. When you stretch, this gives you the comfort and flexibility to carry your body with proper posture.
Should you stretch after a workout?
There is a lot of information and controversy out there on whether stretching is good or bad for you after a workout.
The rule of thumb to reference is that the harder the workout you do, the easier you should go on the stretching. While a cool down and light stretching is beneficial, you don’t want to push your muscles too much after intensely calling on them to work.
If you do focused stretching in a controlled setting, such as in yoga, you can greatly benefit from working your muscles. Many find it helpful to alternate days that you do vigorous exercise and when you do stretch-and-flexibility focused days.
- Begin by resting your hands and knees on the floor. Your knees should be under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
- Keep your back flat and your abdominals engaged. This is your starting position.
- Inhale, arch your back from your tailbone to your neck, and rest your abdominals. Imagine a string is pulling your back up towards the sky, where your stomach relaxes and your back is engaged.
- On your exhale, drop your head and round your back.
- Slowly move between the two positions.
- Return to starting position to complete the stretch.
Muscles involved: Neck, Shoulders, Spine, Abdominals, Chest
Read also: The Best Hip Flexor Stretches for Tight Hips
Lying Glute Stretch
- Begin by lying on your back on the floor with arms and legs fully extended.
- Raise one leg up, bending and drawing it towards your abdomen while maintaining ground contact with your other leg and your upper back.
- Grab the raised knee with both arms, pulling it closer to the abdomen, not allowing it to rotate outwards.
- Maintain this position for the duration of the set, alternating legs in subsequent sets.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
- Begin by standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart and arms by your sides.
- Begin to raise one leg behind you while bending it.
- Grab onto the raised leg with the arm of the side, bending at the knee slightly further.
- Maintain this position for the duration of the set, alternating limbs in subsequent sets.
While there are many health benefits of stretching, one of the best benefits is that you feel comfortable and confident in your body. A body that is flexible and can fluidly go with movements is a lot more comfortable rather than a body that is stiff and uncomfortable your body in times of normal or jarring movements.