Most of us have been taught our whole lives to stretch our muscles before beginning a workout. It was thought that doing so would prepare our bodies for exercise and decrease the chance of injury. As it turns out, stretching before a workout may have the exact opposite effect. Stretching before your muscles have had a chance to warm up can actually make you more prone to injury. It’s actually a better practice to get the blood flowing to your muscles before you begin your workout with a light jog or a brisk walk.
Let that sink in as you think back to every coach and gym teacher who ordered mandatory stretching before practice or class. But don’t hold a grudge – they were just following the conventional wisdom of the time.
So, when is the best time to stretch? It’s right after your workout. Your muscles are most responsive to stretching at this point when they’ve reached peak blood-flow. Don’t wait until your muscles cool down to perform your stretches, and don’t stretch in between sets or before your exercise routine is finished. It’s best to make stretching a stand-alone exercise that takes place at the very end of your activities as the final form of stress on your muscles before giving them time to cool down, recover, and repair.
Here are some of the best post-workout stretches:
Quadricep stretch – Stand straight with your feet firmly planted. Bend your right knee and bring your foot back towards your buttox, grabbing and holding your foot with your right hand. Hold for 20 seconds, then release. Repeat with your left leg.
Hamstring stretch – Sit tall on the ground, with your legs stretched before you. Reach your hands overhead towards the sky and inhale. Exhale as you bring your arms out before you, reaching out as far as you can and holding on to your calves, ankles, or feet. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
Side stretch – Stretch your abdominal and oblique muscles by standing straight up, feet firmly planted. Place your right hand on your hip and extend your left arm over your head, inhaling. Then exhale and bend towards your right and hold for 20 second before relaxing. Repeat on the other side.
Calf stretch – Stand tall, facing a wall. Place both hands on the wall and step back two to three feet with your right foot. Bend your left leg while keeping your right leg extended back and your right heel flat on the ground. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat with your other leg.
Do you find that your body recovers more easily if you stretch after your workout? Tell us in the comments section below.