The body performs better when the muscles are warm, limber, and flexible. Stretching before workouts or any form of exercise can be beneficial in helping you perform your best and improve your range of motion and strength. It also increases blood and oxygen flow to muscles, tendons, and ligaments to help reduce soreness and speed recovery.
Before an intense workout, dedicate 10-20 minutes to stretching in order to reduce aches and pains that can develop from tight muscles. Stretch all the main muscle groups, but mostly the muscles you’ll be using during your workout. Pay close attention to the areas of your body that typically feel sore after a workout and develop your own stretching routine that focuses on the muscles that need it the most. This will keep muscles and joints healthy.
For a full body stretch, start out with the following stretches:
- Calf – Stand facing a wall or chair and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward with one leg bent while keeping your back leg outstretched. Keep both heels on the ground. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
- Quadriceps – Stand with your feet together, bend one knee back and behind you, hold your foot in one or both hands to stretch the front of your thighs. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch sides.
- Shoulder – Outstretch one arm and bring it across the body. Take hold of it with your other hand and pull gently close to chest to stretch the shoulder. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch sides.
- Triceps – Raise one arm straight up, then bend at the elbow so that your hand is touching, or close to touching, your back. Use your other hand to gently pull back on the raised elbow. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch arms.
Before you begin stretching, be sure to spend 10 to 20 minutes on a warm-up session. This is a low-intensity activity to get your heart rate up and increase blood flow to the muscles. Try jogging or climbing stairs. The muscles will stretch more easily after they are warm.
Yoga is also a great way to stretch your muscles and enhance flexibility. There are various types of yoga that are meant to achieve different goals from weight loss to strength training. Each one has numerous active and passive stretching that helps prevent injuries.
Many athletes participate in yoga as a form of training. It helps reduce aches and pains while also improving range of motion and strength. The various stretches also keep muscles and joints healthy.
Stretching before exercising will make your workout go more smoothly and will also decrease the risk of injuries. Muscles that are tight and haven’t warmed up are more prone to tearing and straining. Be sure to take your time while stretching because it’s an essential part of training.
For more information about sports injuries and performance, click here to download our e-book, The Athlete’s Guide to Reaching Peak Sports Performance and Preventing Injury. This educational guide will help you understand common sports injuries, treatment methods and how to maintain fitness after an injury.
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