Giving the muscles a proper stretch before exercise provides many different physical benefits. For starters, injury prevention is one of the key reasons that both professional and amateur athletes all over the world stretch prior to a workout or sports performance. What are the benefits of engaging in exercises that stretch the muscles? Which muscle groups are most important to target for this purpose? What are some of the best techniques for allowing the muscles to stretch properly? The paragraphs that follow will answer these questions.
Benefits of Stretching
Giving the muscles a thorough stretch before engaging in exercise provides many more benefits than a person might realize. Some of the most widely recognized benefits of allowing muscles to stretch before using them are listed below.
Increasing Blood Flow and Oxygen– Allowing stationary muscles to stretch before a workout performs multiple beneficial functions in the body. For starters, it increases the overall body temperature to allow it to prepare for what is coming. It also sends an increased amount of blood flow and oxygen to the muscles to get them warmed up and ready for action.
Reducing Soreness– As an individual begins to engage in exercise, the muscles build up a natural substance called lactic acid. This substance is what leads to the soreness that is felt in the muscles following an intense workout. Soreness can be drastically reduced by allowing the muscles to be stretched both before and after exercise. Allowing the muscles to be stretched after a workout will release some of the built-up lactic acids and reduce soreness.
Preventing Injuries– Injuries with physical activities most often result from doing too much too soon. It isn’t recommended to go straight from sitting on the couch to running down the street without a proper warm-up. Allowing the muscles to stretch properly prepares them for the stress they undergo during physical activity, therefore preventing unnecessary injuries that can set a person back for weeks or even months.
Improving Flexibility– Flexibility is important for many reasons. Generally speaking, being flexible allows an active individual to perform better and to suffer fewer injuries. One of the best ways to improve flexibility is to engage in proper techniques that stretch and elongate the muscles.
Muscle Groups that Should be Stretched
How does an individual know which muscles to stretch before a workout? While this can vary slightly between people or types of physical activity, the following muscles groups should ideally be stretched before exercise.
Shin Stretch– Shin splints are one of the most common forms of injuries suffered by athletes. By stretching the shin area, these types of injuries can be avoided.
Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch– The hamstrings are a large muscle group that is used in many forms of exercise. By simply bending at the waist and reaching for the feet, a gentle hamstring and lower back stretch can be felt.
Hip and IT Band Stretch– Many types of exercise, such as running, can eventually lead to a shortening of the IT band and tightness in the hip muscles. By providing a gentle stretch to this area, pain and discomfort associated with these problems can be avoided.
Shoulder and Neck Stretch– When an individual engages in exercises that rely on a lot of upper body movement and strength, the neck and shoulders should be an area of focus. Providing a gentle stretch to these areas can prevent neck and shoulder injuries that can be difficult to recover from.
Many people today want to become more physically fit and active. While this is a lofty goal to have, it won’t be nearly as beneficial if it results in injuries. Injury prevention can be achieved by learning some basic stretching techniques that focus on the above-mentioned muscle groups.