by Joe Humphries
It’s difficult to argue against the benefits of exercise; several studies have shown a correlation between exercise and life expectancy. According to a cancer.gov article, those who are physically active often live 3.4 years longer than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. That being said, there are a few key principles that you should become familiar with before embarking on your fitness journey. The things that we do leading up to, and after, the gym will dictate how much we benefit from exercise. Good nutrition is essential if you plan on getting through a strenuous workout; so, fuel your body with healthy and nutritious meals. Also, be sure to stretch before you begin your workouts. Why is stretching so important? Well, there are a number of benefits; this is the perfect time to not only warm up your muscles but to also improve your range of motion. Taking a few minutes to warm up will allow you to get the most out of exercise and can help prevent injury.
What does stretching entail, exactly? Stretching involves mobilizing your joints. During this process, muscle temperature increases and the body’s nervous system becomes fully engaged. To better contextualize this statement, imagine starting up a car on a very cold day; you would want to make sure that your vehicle is primed and ready to go before embarking on your journey.
Of course, stretching doesn’t stop simply because you’ve started a few working sets; to maximize your workout, you will want to stretch in between sets and after your workout. This form of stretching is referred to as “static stretching.” The name is derived from the stretching style, whereby you stretch and hold that particular position for a few seconds. Static stretching is great for reducing lactic acid build-up; if you’re unfamiliar with this term, lactic acid is that burning sensation that you feel after fatiguing a particular muscle. This burning sensation can be attributed to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle, by stretching and holding that stretched position (usually 10-30 seconds) the lactic acid will begin to dissipate. Lastly, a post-workout stretch is great as the body cools down; stretching after a workout improves flexibility and reduces cramping.
Honestly, there is no one way to stretch; the key is to stretch properly, which could mean incorporating dynamic, passive, or active stretching into your workouts. So, let’s break these concepts down:
∙ Dynamic stretching– this is where you move your body through a series of challenging movements, which will, in turn, increase your range of motion.
∙ Passive stretching– this is where you incorporate equipment like ProStretch Plus, as well as body weight exercises, into your routine.
∙ Active stretching– this is where you contract one muscle while allowing the other muscle to relax.
Although these concepts may sound challenging, they ensure that you get the absolute best out of your workouts. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle, or simply looking to get toned, stretching exercises are critical to your success. So, if you’re not already stretching before, during, and after your workouts, hopefully, this article has encouraged you to start.
Joe Humphries is a contributing writer and media specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. He regularly writes for health and fitness blogs with an emphasis on high intensity interval training.
You may also like:
For additional stretching tips, read Getting a Safe and Effective Tight Calf Stretch.
For tips on how to avoid injury, read Scariest Word for Runners: Injury.