How important is a consistent stretching routine?
Did you know that 80% of adults will have lower back pain at some point in their life? And this is just the beginning, as most adults will have more body aches and pains than just the lower back. And a simple stretching routine can make the difference.
How can you avoid this muscle pain and injury that will afflict so many adults in their life?
A great stretching routine is a very effective and simple way to greatly reduce, or even eliminate, joint and muscle problems in your life.
Benefits of Daily Stretching
There are many powerful benefits to following a consistent stretching routines:
- Improves your posture by reducing muscle tightness
- Greatly reduces the risk of injury in your daily life, as your muscles will become long and supple
- Post-workout stretching will reduce muscle soreness and improve your recovery time
- Increases your flexibility which will improve your workouts by giving you more range of motion
- Reduces muscle tension and improves overall circulation
- Your body will feel better overall as your muscles will be relaxed and supple
A simple but powerful stretching routine is the foundation of an elite fitness plan, and the routines within this site are:
- Extremely proven and effective
- Takes only a few minutes per workout
Different Types of Stretching
There are two main types of stretching:
- Static stretching
- Dynamic stretching
Static stretching is best used post-workout when the muscles are fully warm.
Static stretching involves stretching a muscle or joint by using a fixed object (wall, chair, pole, etc) as resistance. You stretch the muscle as far as you can until you feel slight discomfort, and then hold the position for 30 seconds. Static stretching is a controlled and stable movement, without fluid motion.
Dynamic stretching is best used pre-workout, when the muscles are slowly warming up.
Dynamic stretching involves motion, usually in circular, rotating, bending, or continuous back-and-forth movements. It is critical to never bounce or jerk the motion, as this will lead to joint or muscle injury. Dynamic stretching should start very slowly and then progress to a full range of motion.
Both static and dynamic stretching are vital to a complete and well-rounded stretching routine. They will improve your workouts, as well as your flexibility and overall well-being.
- Always maintain good posture
- Focus on proper breathing (inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth)
- Really focus on the muscle(s) you are stretching – feel the stretch
- Never jerk or bounce
- Only start a stretching routine when your muscles are warmed up (2 minutes of cardio)
- Never stretch to a point of pain, only slight discomfort
How and When to Stretch for your Workout Routine
The scientific and research evidence as to when you should stretch, pre- or post-workout, has changed in the past 20 years. The old school of thought was static stretching before workouts. The modern approach is focused more on dynamic stretching pre-workout, and static stretching post-workout.
The ole’ proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true! And the benefits of a super-charged stretching routine go way beyond avoiding injury – they will improve your overall wellness.
Pre-Workout Stretching – Dynamic Stretching
1) Get the Blood Flowing
Warm-up your muscles and body for 1 minute by doing some quick cardio:
- Hopping/Bouncing in place
- Jumping jacks
This warms the muscles, gets the blood flowing (circulation), and increases the heart rate.
Dynamic stretches are generally performed pre-workout, and usually include full-body movements. You want to engage all of your muscle groups in a slow and controlled motion, gradually increasing the intensity. Some dynamic stretches to prepare you for your workout:
- Arm rotations
- Neck rotations
- Elbow Rotations
- Wrist Rotations
- Shoulder rotations
- Torso rotations and bends
Your pre-workout stretch is now complete…you are ready to attack your workout routines with intensity and confidence, knowing your muscles are warm and ready.
Your muscles are now fully warmed up after a great workout, so it is prime time for a great static stretching routine with all muscle groups to achieve all the benefits listed above.
- Neck Stretching Routines – Neck stretches to stretch all muscles in the neck
- Back Stretches – There are many muscles in the back – make sure they are supple
- Lower Back Stretches – Taking care of the all important lower back
- Chest Stretch – Critical to avoiding pulled muscles in the chest and torso
- Ankle and Foot Stretching – Important for cardio workouts to protect the ankles
- Achilles Tendon Stretching – Stretching your achilles to improve cardio range of motion
- Shoulder Stretches – Prepare your shoulders for upper body workouts
- Arms Stretching – Prepare your entire arm for an upper body workout
- Biceps Stretch – Prepare biceps to train and grow
- Tricep Stretch – Prepare the triceps to train and grow
- Quad Stretches – Focus on quad muscles
- Calf Stretches – Stretch the calf muscles, which can be vulnerable in jogging
- Heel Stretch – Important for cardio workouts
- Wrist Stretches – Key to avoiding “tennis elbow” which can put you out for 6 months
- Hamstring Stretches – If you ever played high school sports, this is a common muscle injury
- Hip Stretch – The hips should always be fully stretched before and after any workout routine
How to Avoid a Workout Injury
An effective stretching routine is the best way to avoid injury. (1)
Workout injuries can put you out for months, so take the time to avoid these costly injuries. A lower back strain, “tennis elbow” in your elbow, neck tweaks, and other injuries can be very common with poor preparation. Some workout injuries can put a stop to your lean muscle building workouts for six months or more. (2) (3) (4)
Orthopedic physicians will tell you that most injuries are easily avoidable with proper warm-up and stretching. (5)
A proper stretching routine should become a cornerstone to your overall fitness plan.
Learn more stretching routines to avoid injury:
- Muscle injury
- Lower Back Pain Stretches
Stretching Machines and Equipment
Most stretching routines can be effectively achieved using your own body weight, or some common anchor point (wall, pole, ground, etc).
However, if you want to take your stretches to the next level up, there are machines and equipment that can help you achieve this:
- Ball Stretching
- Stretching Rack
- Hyperextension Machine (Back)
Pulling it All Together
Your stretching routine is essential to the overall success, and safety, of your fitness plan.
You want to properly prepare your muscles for a workout by performing…
- 1 minute of warm-up (jumping jacks, hopping in place)
- 2 minutes of dynamic stretches
This will ensure your muscles are “warm” before you start your resistance training.
Post-workout make sure you do your static stretching, particularly on the muscle groups you just exercised. This will help with:
- Recovery time
- Muscle soreness
- Building lean muscle in the long run
Most importantly, if you don’t have time in your workout routine to stretch, you will be forced to make time later for doctor’s appointments…it is not a matter of if you will injure yourself, but only a matter of when, and how severe the injury. So make the time – you’ll be glad you did.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, February 12). Stretching is not a warm up! find out why. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931#:~:text=Benefits%20of%20stretching&text=However%2C%20research%20has%20shown%20that,Decrease%20your%20risk%20of%20injuries
- Kojo Hamilton, M. D. (n.d.). Lower back muscle strain symptoms. Spine.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 25). Tennis elbow. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20351987#:~:text=Tennis%20elbow%20(lateral%20epicondylitis)%20is,people%20who%20develop%20tennis%20elbow.
- Is your workout giving you a stiff neck? Harvard Health. (2019, December 15). https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/is-your-workout-giving-you-a-stiff-neck#:~:text=Neck%20pain%20may%20result%20from,poor%20posture%20during%20an%20activity.
- Marks, H. (n.d.). Workout injuries: Prevention and treatment. WebMD.