You’ve seen it on the workout DVDs, you’ve seen it on YouTube workout videos, and you’re told before gym classes, but why is stretching so important? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, or even what would happen if you chose not to stretch before exercise, you’re in the right place!
Reduce the Risk of Injury
If you’re asked to stretch and warm up before a workout, the main reason for doing so will be to reduce muscle tension and ease the muscles into movements that exceed the normal daily routine. While working out, your muscles are going to be put through their paces. Rather than immediately expecting the muscles to be ready for running, for example, we can ease them in with stretches. Staying hydrated will also help the stretching be more effective.
By allowing the joints and muscles to move through their full range of motion, they get ready for the more extensive exercise that’s about to follow. By doing this, we reduce the risk of injury; the muscles are ready for the upcoming intensity. Stretching is especially important if you are doing hi-energy workouts like Crossfit, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and weight lifting.
If you’ve been sitting at your desk all day, your body won’t be ready for an intense workout. After a few minutes, you’ll probably start to struggle and you’ll be wondering why you took sitting down for granted. By starting the workout with some stretching exercises, you’re preparing the body, increasing the heart rate gradually, and allowing the blood to circulate fully. Again, this reduces the risk of injury because you aren’t just leaping into action from being ‘cold’. Maintaining a healthy diet will also contribute to better circulation.
Have you ever felt embarrassed at the beginning of a gym class while you struggle to touch your toes (while the trainer is doing it without any effort whatsoever, of course)? As well as warming the body and getting the blood circulating, stretching has benefits in isolation too; one of which being improved flexibility. If you do stretches before each workout, and even on rest days too, you’ll soon find that your flexibility improves. Suddenly, those simple tasks like picking up kid’s toys and picking up the newspaper from the floor won’t be so strenuous.
In most gyms, one of the biggest problems holding members back isn’t the exercises they’re doing or how often they’re attending the gym, it’s the form they have with basic exercises. Why do people struggle with a form? Because they haven’t stretched through the full range of motion. After stretching, most people feel looser and this allows them to attack the exercises properly rather than feeling resistance and giving up. One caveat with proper form is that it’s not always something people are aware of. Learning the proper form for different exercises can often be the result of time spent with a personal fitness trainer. Hiring a trainer if even for a short time will help you learn proper form so that you can maximize your results.
Utilization of Time
Finally, by warming up and then stretching, you can really utilize the time you’re working out. If you only have 40 minutes to exercise, you’ll see better results after warming up and stretching for ten minutes because the body will be in peak condition to attack the remaining 30 minutes. Without these two steps, you’ll feel cold going into the exercises, you won’t have a full range of motion, and you run the risk of injuring your body.
When the body is warm and ready to work out, it has the right posture and coordination for specific movements. Whether you’re hitting the pads, preparing for a competition or taking on the weights, warming up and stretching allows for full control of the body at the right times.
For these five reasons, it’s important to stretch before a workout; whether you’re visiting the gym for the first time or about to run the 100m Olympic final against Usain Bolt (good luck!). As long as you breathe through the stretches, the muscles will receive oxygen and your body will be ready for anything!