VIDEO: Try these stretches after your next workout
St. Joseph’s/Candler exercise physiologist explains the differences between stretching before and after a workout
Trainers recommend stretching both before and after a workout. However, they should not be treated equally.
Researchers have learned more over the years about stretching. So much so that stretching before a workout isn’t necessarily as important as it is after a workout. And, there are two different types of stretches – dynamic and static – that each have a place in your routine.
Stretching a muscle to the full extent of your ability and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is a static stretch, explains Michael Mahnken, exercise physiologist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center at Candler Hospital. Examples include hamstring, quadriceps and torso stretches.
A dynamic stretch moves muscle groups fluidly through an entire range of motion. It’s not holding a stretch, but very short, ballistic movements, Mahnken describes. Examples include butt kicks, knee highs, leg swings and torso twists.
Both types of stretches should feel like a gentle pull on your muscles and never be painful.
“Dynamic stretching is what you want to do before you work out,” Mahnken says. “Static stretching is what you want to do after exercising.”
You don’t necessarily have to stretch before a workout. It is not proven to prevent injury or curb soreness. However, dynamic stretching, or warming up, can help loosen the muscles and increase your heart rate and blood flow, preparing your body for the activity ahead.
During a workout, your muscles will get tight and may swell. Static stretching after a workout can help relax the muscles, in addition to slowing your heartbeat and breathing, Mahnken says.
“Stretching after a workout is a great way to relax your body and cool down after an intense workout,” Mahnken says. “Even if you are just walking, it is good to stretch as well because your muscles can still get tight, especially if you have a sedentary job or wear improper shoes.”
Static stretches should be held for 15 to 30 seconds and repeated two or three times. The number of stretches and amount of time spent stretching can be a judgment call, Mahnken says.
As an example, Mahnken teaches the Wellness Center Circuit Training class on Wednesdays. It’s an hour long class combining cardio and strength exercises that maximize participants’ athletic ability. He begins each class with a 15 minute warm up, followed by the bulk of the class and then a 10 minute cool down.
Mahnken likes to focus on stretching the hip flexors, buttocks and hamstrings, as well as the quads. He’ll also add a few upper body and back stretches. But, Mahnken says you may want your stretching to reflect your workout. If it’s arm day in the gym, for example, focus on stretching your arms, back and chest.
Another tip Mahnken provides is to stretch after a workout regardless of how intense it may or may not be or how novice or experienced you are to exercising.
“Stretching is important for everybody. It’s probably a little more important for that person who is sedentary, just getting into working out, because they probably are so stiff. Stretching can benefit their flexibility,” Mahnken says. “Someone who is a little more active is probably looser, but can still benefit from stretching because muscles are still going to get tight.”
Don’t exercise? Even If you live more of a sedentary lifestyle, stretching daily or at least several times a week is a great way to gain flexibility, improve your posture and reduce back pain, especially as you age.
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