As important as it is to regularly exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it's just as important to prepare your body for the rigors of the workout that are ahead. Many people like to just jump right into their workout without stretching or warming up – however, this is a dangerous proposition as working out a cold muscle could lead to injury.
Stretching before you begin your fitness routine is important, because it loosens up your muscles and makes you less likely to get hurt. It is also important to stretch after a workout.
Many people skip stretching simply because they don’t know what to do. It isn’t hard to stretch properly and shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Here are a few stretching tips you should try, in order to get the most out of your workout.
1. Warm up
Before even getting to the stretching, you want to prepare your muscles with a simple warm-up. You lightly jog in place, do some butt kicks, high knees, jumping jacks, and even a few pushups to get your blood flowing. The importance of warming up is that it increases your blood flow and makes your muscles more flexible for exercise. This is commonly skipped, but a good warm up will help prevent injuries at the gym.
2. Stretch the right muscles
One of the most important things to consider before choosing a stretch is which muscles you plan on working out that day. For example, if you are going in for leg day, you want to stretch out your leg muscles. One of the best stretches before working out your legs or going for a run is the standing quad stretch. To do this, you want to grab your foot and bring it up towards your butt. Hold your balance and keep both knees together. This is a great quad stretch that will hopefully prevent the pulling of any muscles during your run.
3. Stretch after a workout
While it is important to warm those muscles up before hitting the gym, it is just as essential to stretch once you have finished working out. The post-workout stretch will help reduce soreness and joint pain later on. And after being continually contracted during the workout, stretching will help get your muscles back to its normal size. If you used a certain muscle group, you should be stretching out that specific muscle group after the workout.
4. Don’t overdo it
As important as it is to work on your flexibility and prepare your muscles for exercise, you don’t want to push yourself too far to the point that you may get hurt. If you are already experiencing some joint pain or limited range of motion, take it easy on the stretching and the workout. You don’t want to inflame a preexisting injury.
Next time you head out to the gym, don’t skip your stretches. You want your body to be in the best shape possible before a rigorous workout.