The Importance of Stretching Part 1

February 29, 2016

 

It’s chilly mornings like these that bring about such an important topic for exercise, stretching before and after is key for your body, aiding in recovery and also improving your flexibility and mobility which aids your movement! In this first part we take a look at pre-workout stretching, the do’s, the don’ts and some stretches you can do.

 

Why Stretch?

So the basic principles of pre-workout stretching are to stretch out the muscle, warm your bodies temperature and to activate your joints and muscles ready for the exercises your about to undertake. These points make it crucial that you warm up before your workout, no matter how little or stress free you think your exercises are going to be don’t be fooled, the stretching is just as important. By conducting a proper ‘warm up’ you can prevent many unnecessary injuries and avoid that setback you don’t need, a warm up isn’t just for the athletes and the pros, it’s for everyone.

 

Pre-Workout Warm Up

Now you’re ready for your workout and it’s time to conduct that proper ‘warm up’, especially on these chilly mornings when your body is mad at you for leaving the warmth of bed! We’ll go through a list of do’s and don’ts to get you prepared and then speak more stretch & exercise specific while providing some examples for you to use.

 

Do’s

  • Get your body active

  • Use dynamic movements (moving actions)

  • Ensure your targeting the muscles you’re going to use

  • Start slow and increase range/speed of movement

So from these above, the key point to pre-workout stretching is to ensure you are keeping your body moving and getting warm. This can be done a number of ways, through specific body stretches to performing basic exercise movements with control and using bodyweight. It is also important to note to start slow and increase your range of movement and speed of movement as you stretch.

 

Don’ts

  • Focus on static stretching (standing still)

  • Miss out muscles that will be used

  • NOTHING

  • Involve heavy weights/lifting

  • Brisk it as your rushed for time

Avoid being static with your body when conducting a pre-workout warm up and don’t add weight to your movements. There is a great time and place for static stretching and that will be covered in part 2, but in terms of using it for pre-exercise it’s a no-go to avoid potential injuries.

 

Dynamic Movements

So from our do’s and don’ts, we can see the key message to take away is being dynamic and getting our bodies moving, this can be done through a number of ways.

 

The first is to use dynamic stretches and target specific body parts and muscles to get them activated ready for your exercises. Now this can be conducted through a full body from head to ankle or if we are only using specific muscle groups by targeting those.

 

 

The above image shows 3 basic dynamic stretches to activate your legs and get the joints moving, these are great at opening up the hips, hamstrings and quads ready for exercise. Using the same principle on the movements it can be applied to other body parts like rotation of the arms in both small and big circular movements and rotation of the neck and hips. We can also bring our arms across our chest in a swinging motion to help activate our chest muscles and open up the shoulder joint.

 

The second is to use exercises themselves to help warm our bodies up, from the classics of jogging on the spot and bum kicks to completing the exercise movements using bodyweight in a controlled fashion. For example, if you are going to be training on your legs, then we can use our bodyweight squat together with bum kicks to activate our leg muscle groups and get the joints moving. Make sure that you keep it controlled and move through a comfortable range of movement each time, gradually increasing the range/speed over time. Using these combinations of jogging and alternative movements coupled with bodyweight exercises can be a great warm up and also enable ourselves to form better technique into our exercise movements.

 

Either of these methods can be used to complete a dynamic warm up and get you prepared for your workout ahead, just ensure you feel warm, have targeted all the muscle groups required and have been thorough especially on colder days.

 

Stay tuned for part 2, were we will discuss the use of static stretching, when to use it and it’s benefits as well as mentioning foam rolling and how to introduce it into your cool down.

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