Do you stretch? Do you not stretch but feel like you should? I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits of stretching with my own body and fitness routine. In fact, I just listened to a great PT podcast to learn what the research says.
Here are the takeaways I want you to know:
The immediate benefits you feel from stretching (like feeling less tight and more limber) are NOT because your muscles are actually getting longer. Research shows that it is more a result of your brain and nervous system feeling okay with that sensation at end range stretch. The brain is so powerful!
If you want to improve performance and reduce your risk of injury, do NOT static stretch (aka long stretch holds) before a workout. Dynamic stretching before a workout is SO IMPORTANT to improve performance and reduce your risk of getting hurt. Static stretching before a workout or athletic performance has actually been shown to INCREASE your risk of getting injured [insert brain explosion!].
Dynamic stretches are things like squats, walking lunges, hip swings, inchworms, cat/cow, down dog/up dog, etc. Aka anything where you are MOVING throughout your full range of motion. Static stretching, like restorative yoga is more beneficial after a workout.
Consistent stretching over time, including both static and dynamic, can actually lead to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments lengthening. This is a long-term process so you should incorporate this into your fitness routine. How?
- Spend 10 minutes stretching every morning to help wake your body up and improve mobility over time. Be sure to use a combo of static and dynamic moves. There is so much variety in how this can look! Have a favorite yoga video? Go for it. Here’s my favorite morning stretch routine. Not a yoga person? That’s totally fine! Some of my favorite stretches are a standing hip flexor stretch, side to side lunges to loosen up the inner thighs, seated butterfly, and standing sidebends.
- Get a really good dynamic warm-up before a workout. I recommend first starting with something to get your heart rate up and blood pumping such as marching in place, high knees, butt kicks, or jumping jacks. Do any combination of these for 2-3 minutes. Follow this up with dynamic stretches such as squats, hip swings, inchworms, side to side lunges, and walking lunges with a twist.
- Focus on recovery after a workout (I love foam rolling) and take time for self-care.
There are so many benefits to stretching! Need help incorporating stretching and mobility into your routine? Let’s chat!