Love it or hate it, stretching is something that everyone should be doing. From dynamic stretches done during a warm-up, to deep stretching during your cool-down, stretching comes in many forms and there are endless possibilities to choose from when looking to add stretching to your routine. But why do you need to stretch and is stretching good for you even when you don’t work out regularly?
At Grants MMA and Boxing Gym, our clients often ask us about stretching and we are here to answer all the most asked questions we get. In this post, we outline everything we want you to know about stretching including “does stretching help muscle recovery?” (it does!), to “when and how long should you be stretching?”. Not sure where to get started when it comes to stretching? Consider joining a group class such as boxing classes to learn a variety of stretches and exercises that you can incorporate into your own routine.
Why Is Stretching Important?
Stretching is a crucial component of any exercise routine but is also a good idea for anyone to do even when they aren’t active. Stretching helps to prevent injuries and can improve range of motion and flexibility. To keep your body in great shape, adding stretching into your routine is crucial. Keep in mind that it isn’t a great idea to go from resting directly into deep stretches. Ensure your body is warmed up before stretching to help prevent an injury during stretching such as a pulled muscle.
Should You Stretch Before or After a Workout?
Our personal training clients often ask us whether they should be stretching before or after a workout. Though stretching is important and should almost always be done after a workout, you’ll want to ensure you don’t do static stretching before working out. Stretching before a workout should be part of your warm-up routine and should include dynamic movements that help your body get ready to participate in more activity. A dynamic warm-up can be a great way to stretch and warm up your muscles, but static stretches where you hold a stretch for a period of time should be reserved for when your body is already warm in order to prevent an injury.
When our clients ask us, “why is it important to stretch before exercise?” We tell them it is all about preventing injury. A dynamic stretching warmup is always your best when stretching for injury prevention before a workout. For more information on warming up and cooling down see our previous post The Ultimate Guide to Injury Prevention for Boxing, MMA and Other Sports.
How Often Should I Be Stretching?
Stretching is not something that is easy to overdo and for many athletes, is something they don’t do enough of. Stretching everyday weather as part of your morning routine, after a workout, or as your wind down to sleep can be beneficial for everyone. It can feel tough to add a dedicated stretching session to your routine though if you can, stretching a few times a week will likely be beneficial to your body. If you can’t add dedicated stretching sessions, ensure you are performing an adequate warm-up and cool down after your workouts to reduce your risk of injury and promote healthy workout recovery.
How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?
Stretches should be done slowly and you should always allow yourself plenty of time for stretching to ensure you gain the full benefit of the movement. In most cases, you’ll want to hold a stretch for 15-20 seconds and you may wish to consider repeating the stretch and hold multiple times. Though 15-20 seconds is not a long amount of time, you’ll want to be mindful of not releasing a stretch too soon. Consider using a timer to help you optimize your stretching routine.
Does Stretching Improve Performance?
You may know that stretching feels good and is good for your muscles, but you might also wonder if stretching improves performance as well as consider, does stretching make you flexible? Flexibility and range of motion can both be improved by stretching though this is not something that will happen overnight. Adding regular stitching into your routine or even adding in exercise such as yoga can help you work on stretching for the improvement of athletic performance and range of motion.
Should You Stretch When Sore?
When you work out regularly, there is no doubt that from time to time, you will experience sore muscles. When you are sore, you might feel like taking a rest day though adding some stretching might be beneficial too. Stretching may help to make your muscles feel less tight and stiff and may help reduce muscle soreness. Going for a light walk or participating in light exercises may also reduce muscle soreness, though stretching is a low-impact way to incorporate movement into a rest day.
Stretches to Incorporate into Your Warm-Up and Cool-Down
When it’s time to stretch, make sure you focus on the entire body, but give some extra time to any areas of the body you may have worked hard during your workout. Below are some of our favourite stretches that you might want to consider adding to your routine based on main muscle groups.
Upper Body Stretches
- Neck stretches
- Triceps stretch
- Posterior cuffs stretch
- Thread the needle stretch
Lower Body Stretches
- Side luge
- Calf stretches
- Glute bridge
- Standing quad stretch
- Hamstring stretch
- Cobra stretch
- Childs Pose
For more support and stretching ideas see our previous stretching-related articles, How to Stretch Your Hamstrings, How to Stretch Your Back, and How to Stretch Your Hip. At Grants MMA & Boxing Gym we are here to support you in achieving your athletic and fitness-related goals. We are always available to answer your questions and look forward to offering you support through personal training or one of our exciting and challenging classes such as Muay Thai classes and BJJ classes.