We hear about the importance of stretching and how we all need to stretch more often. With new studies recently published calling “sitting the new smoking” it’s becoming even more obvious we all need to move more. When it comes to stretching , is there a right way or a better way we can be doing it? Are there certain stretches you should be doing before your workout? Or what about after? Below I address these questions and give you some of my favorite stretches to do on your own.
Stretching warms up the body. It sends blood and oxygen to muscles, fibers and tissues throughout the body which allows us to move more freely and easily. If you are someone who sits all day, it is extremely beneficial for you from a mental standpoint. In the gym, before your workout, it’s even important to stretch and warm up not only to get the best workout you possibly can but also to help keep current injuries at bay and prevent future ones from coming on.
There are two different types of stretching methods you should know about. Static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching should be done before your workout. This type of stretching usually mimics the moves you are about to do. It allows activation and warm up of the specific muscles you plan on using. For example, if you plan on squatting, you would do something like a bootstrapper which requires you to sit down into a deep squat demonstrated here. Try 2x8-10 reps. Really breathe deep into these stretches and take your time! Check out the full playlist here to get the lowdown on some of my favorite dynamic stretches to do before all my workouts. I recommend most of these to my clients before each of their workouts.
Static stretching is probably the stretching you are most familiar with. It stretches the muscles while the rest of the body is at rest. The idea is that you gradually lengthen the muscle to an elongated position (to the point of slight discomfort) and then you typically hold that position for about 30 seconds.(Think pulling your ankle up and back to stretch out your quads or reaching down to touch your toes.) Now this stretching is not necessarily wrong, but you may not be using it at the right time. Static stretching should be done after your workouts. The reason for this is because when you stretch your muscles statically, meaning pulling on them, if your muscles are not warm enough, they can actually “pull-back” (think of them as a rubber band) in a way as a natural reflex thus causing you to become even more tight and putting you at a larger risk for injury. Static stretching does have a place in your regimen and it is after your workout when you are sweaty and warm.
If you are someone sitting at a desk all day, I would recommend doing some dynamic stretching from your desk. I get a lot of scoffing when I tell people to get up and get on the floor at work, but this idea along with standing desks is becoming more acceptable and in my opinion necessary for individuals- specifically those sitting at their desks for longer then 6-8 hours a day. So get up and get moving!