We’ve heard it from our coaches and gym teachers starting at an early age. Stretching is an activity we must do before every workout, or else! While it’s true that stretching beforehand ensures stability, prevents injuries and improves flexibility, it also presents certain benefits for after the workout.
Static stretching was always preached before exercise, that is until a study came out denouncing it. In 2008, Professor of kinesiology at California State University, Chico observed a number of local athletes who stretched before a game. He concluded that stretching decreased muscle strength, increased the risk of injury, and was generally unhealthy. Other studies found similar results, like one conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas which found that athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after performing a static stretch.
But since then, attitudes towards stretching have changed. Contradictory studies have emerged to claim that static stretching before exercise really does benefit you. Part of the problem with the older studies is they didn’t take into account the way time factors into your stretching. Basically the longer a stretch is held then is followed by an immediate workout, the chances of problems arise. The key is to take things slowly even after the stretching. Go for a slow jog and take your time. Don’t go from 0 to 100 right away. Treat your warm-up like a slowly accelerating vehicle. With each movement you’re stepping down a little harder on the gas peddle until you’ve finally reached game-time.
Then there is stretching after your workout. This is hugely important for preventing lactic acid buildup in your muscles and enabling you to recover faster. It’s a must for people who workout everyday or every other day so that they’re on top of their game each time. It will increase their blood circulation and keep them from going to bed sore at night.
Post workout stretching is also beneficial from a psychological perspective. It helps your mind and body communicate after your activity, informing one another about your aches and pains and how you can relieve stress.
If you’re finding it hard to stretch after each workout, think of stretching as your reward. It’s a cool down activity following your physical labor, not another form of labor in itself.
But the key to making this work is to make it habitual. The more you prioritize it initially, the faster it will become habit for you.