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The Benefits of Stretching—Plus 5 Stretches to Do Post-Workout

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We’ve been putting in the effort and making it a priority to workout (go us!). We’re painstakingly selecting our workout outfits, purchasing the best equipment and being extremely careful with our form. But when it comes to stretching post-workout, well, it’s something most of us almost always skips.  Does that  sound familiar? It’s easy to come up with an excuse—not enough time, you think you’re flexible “enough”, you don’t need to bother with that. Well, sorry to be the one to share the news—stretching is one of the most important aspects of fitness. 

It can be used in recovery to help enhance athletic performance, prevent injury, reduce any muscular pain and restore and improve range of movement. 

We’re breaking down the benefits of stretching, plus giving you five stretches to do after your workouts. Your body is going to thank you, we promise!

Benefits of Stretching 

Reduce Muscle Soreness 

We all know that feeling when our muscles feel tight, sore and stiff after a training session. This soreness is because of micro tears within the muscle fibres and accumulated waste products such as lactic acid. If these toxic substances are allowed to build up in our body they will cause muscular pain and stiffness the day after you workout.  Stretching can help to alleviate this pain by lengthening the muscles fibres, increasing blood circulation and removing waste products. By removing waste products we allow for the delivery of essential nutrients and proteins to the muscle tissue, this can be extremely beneficial when recovering from an injury. This cellular exchange that occurs when removing waste products from the body and replenishing your muscles with nutrients and proteins, will help us to maintain healthy muscle tissue and speed up recovery. 

Increase Blood Circulation 

Stretching can help to improve circulation by increasing the blood flow to your muscles. It also increased delivery of nutrients to the muscle tissue, while simultaneously removing any waste products and toxins. So this helps to facilitate the recovery process and repair muscle tissue. 

Improved Range of Movement 

By increasing our range of movement, we’re allowing ourselves a greater ability to move more freely and reduce the risk of muscle and tendon strain injuries. When stretching we’re able to restore and improve the length of our muscles, creating a reduction in muscle tension and thereby our normal range of movement is increased. 

Along with the benefits listed above, having a regular stretching program will help to improve posture and relaxation, and provide stress relief. It will also help you to develop body awareness and coordination and may also increase your energy levels. 

Add the following stretches to the end of your training sessions. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat the sequence 2 to 3 times. Remember to breathe and gently move deeper into the stretch each time you exhale. 

STRETCHES

Downward Facing Dog

Benefits:

  • Energizes the body 
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves and the arches of feet
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Beneficial for sciatica 

Steps to follow:

Come onto the floor on your hands and knees, with the knees directly below the hips and the hands slightly in front of the shoulders.  Spread your palms out onto the mat and tuck your toes underneath.

Exhale and lift the knees off the floor, straightening the legs and coming into a high plank position. 

Exhale and lift the hips up and away from the shoulders and lengthen the spine. 

Press your hands firmly into the floor, rotate the forearms out and draw the shoulders away from your ears.  Lengthen the backs of your legs by pressing the heels down towards the floor and try to lift the tops of your feet towards your shins. 

Modifications:

If straight legs feel too intense, bend both the knees and focus on keeping a long spine. 

Hold for 30 seconds.

 

High Lunge 

Benefits:

  • Stretches the groin and hip flexors
  • Strengthens legs and arms

Steps to follow:

Start in Downward-Facing Dog Pose.  Exhale, and step your right foot forward between your hands.  Try to align your right knee with your heel so you create a right-angle shape with the knee and it stacks directly above your ankle. 

Keep your left leg strong and engaged with your hips in line and press the ball of your foot into the floor. 

Position your palms or fingers on the floor on either side of your leg and try to keep the stomach engaged so you are not relaxing the stomach down onto your front leg. 

Roll your shoulders down and backward, lift your head and gaze straight forward, keep the upper body forward so you create a strong line from your head to your heel.

Repeat on the opposite side. 

Modifications:

Drop the back leg down to the floor if the stretch becomes too intense. If this feels uncomfortable place a folded towel underneath your knee. 

You could also place a yoga block either side of your right foot and place your hands on top so you are able to keep length in your spine. 

Hold for 30 seconds.

Figure 4 Stretch 

Benefits:

  • Stretches the piriformis and glutes 
  • Stretches the lower back and hips 

Steps to follow:

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and place your feet flat on the floor. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee and keep the right foot flexed. 

Reach through either side of your left leg to hold the back of your left thigh and interlace your fingers. 

Gently pull the left knee towards your chest using your arms and relax your back and head down onto the floor. 

Repeat on the opposite side. 

Modifications:

If this is too intense to bring the knee in towards the chest, you can simply leave the left foot on the floor and hold the figure 4 position here. 

Hold for 30 seconds.

Wall Chest Stretch

Benefits:

  • Stretches the pec major and minor 

Steps to follow:

Take a split stance, by taking the left foot forward and right foot back (Carry out in a doorway or at the end of a wall).

Raise the right arm to shoulder level and bend the elbow, so it should look like a goal post or 90 degree right angle. 

Keep the palm facing forward and press against the wall surface, moving into the space slowly to feel a stretch across the right side of your chest.

Repeat on the opposite side. 

Hold for 30 seconds. 

Reclining Spinal Twist

Benefits:

  • Releases spinal tension
  • Loosens hips
  • Tones abdominals 

Steps to follow:

Lie on the floor and bend your knees with your feet placed flat on the floor.  Extend your arms straight out to the sides with the palms facing up. 

Lift your feet off the floor, keeping your knees together and bent. 

Exhale and bend your knees to the left so the left thigh touches the floor, causing your hips and spine to twist. 

Keep your shoulder blades planted on the floor and turn your head to the right. 

Repeat on the opposite side. 

Hold for 30 seconds.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

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