1. Stretch to prevent muscle soreness and injury. After you work out a particular muscle, there will be a substance called lactic acid leftover from the workout. Lactic acid is what causes that tightness and soreness the next day. Stretching actually helps remove the lactic acid. Tight muscles have the tendency to tear easily, whereas well stretched muscles can take the fall on the wet soccer field, for example, without tearing.
2. If you use a muscle group, it needs to be stretched. Balanced strong and stretched muscles are important for joint health. If you have tight hamstrings for example, your pelvis is going to be pulled out of alignment, which can cause back pain. We want muscles to be balanced from one side to the other as well (front to back).
3. Always stretch warm muscles. A cold muscle is like a frozen elastic band, it will snap and cause injury. For best results, perform a light movement warm up for 3 to 5 minutes prior to stretching because this will add fluid and mobility to the joints and to bring blood flow to the surrounding muscles. You want to warm up until your heart rate increases slightly and break a light sweat before you stretch.
4. Do the right stretches in order to get the most benefit. There are a couple different types of stretching you should know about.
- Ballistic stretching, which is comprised of bouncing. This form of stretching is not recommended.
- Static stretching, which means holding a stretch in a static position. This form is preferable. To perform this type of stretching, hold the muscle being stretched for at least 30 seconds.
5. Stretch at the best time in your workout. It is not necessary to stretch before you work out but it is absolutely necessary to stretch after you work out. Exercise classes may incorporate controlled stretches during the warm up but they are in that part of the workout as an overall warm up, not specifically as a stretch. If doing a cardio workout, stretch at the end of the routine. If performing a strength training program, stretch each muscle group immediately after the muscle is finished being worked--don't wait until the entire routine is over.
6. If you're sore, keep moving. If you have done a very intense work out and your muscles are inevitably sore the next day, movement is best. Do some light exercise, have an Epsom salt bath and stretch it out. Remember to rest, eat protein and allow the muscle to rebuild, with no heavy weight training on it for 24 hours.
Barbara Bates is a Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner, Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, Reiki Practitioner and CancerGuide. She holds a Masters Degree of Applied Science in Holistic Nutrition and runs a wellness practice in Canada. Barbara is specifically trained in diagnosing and correcting the underlying root cause of health concerns rather than treating the symptoms and her nutrition services are offered over the internet to assist those in all areas of the world. To contact Barbara, please visit innerbalancewellness.com. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.