Stretching is a vital component of any workout. It only takes a few minutes and it helps to relax your muscles, and it can also help prevent muscle tension or pulled muscles after a workout. I have often seen people just jump on a treadmill or dropping the weights without warming up at all or stretching at the end. While stretching is a neglected step of a workout, it is highly advisable to establish a good pre and post workout stretching routine
How to Stretch
You can stretch both as a warm up or at the end of a workout. The number one rule in stretching properly is to understand which muscles will be worked for that particular routine. Your emphasis should be on the muscles that will be most heavily involved in your workout. For example, if you are running that day it means you should pay attention to your legs and if you are doing some weight lifting focus on the back, shoulders and neck.
In the images above, steps 1-2 are for beginners and a great routine for a pre or post run workout. Try doing 3-4 if you are more advanced or fairly flexible.These steps are recommended for a weight lifting day. The important point to remember is that it needs to feel good. If you stretch to a point where you do not feel comfortable, or you feel pain, it is advisable to ease off a little bit in the stretch until you reach a point where you feel comfortable.
While stretching, it is also important to monitor your breathing. You should aim to maintain it as natural as possible. Don not try to hold your breath, as this will not allow you to relax and stop you from getting the most benefit out of stretching. Keep your breathing slow and rhythmical. This is advisable as you want to avoid any sudden jerking movement that can cause your muscles to suddenly tightening up.
The recommended way to breathe is to exhale while doing a bending movement. For example, for exercise 1, you should try to exhale while you bend towards the right leg and inhale when you move back to an upright position. Then you would exhale when you bend to the left leg. By exhaling while you move forward you will allow yourself to go down a bit further towards the leg without feeling you cannot breathe freely.
Stretching is also a great routine to have every morning. Take a few minutes to unwind your body and get your muscles in gear for a full day ahead.
What is your morning stretching routine? Leave us a comment below.