One element of the workout program that is too often overlooked by many people is stretching. You’re antsy to get your cardio session going and excited to hit the weights and see what new personal bests you can set for yourself this time around.
Stretching just doesn’t evoke the same level of excitement as the other forms of activity do and because of this, you may just rather avoid it.
But, not so fast. If you really want to see the best benefits from your workout session, getting in some stretching will be a must.
There are a few important things that you must consider as you go about doing so however, so let’s walk you through the must-know tips about proper stretching before a workout.
The Pre-Stretch Warm-Up
The very first thing that you’ll want to take note of is that you should never stretch cold. This means don’t step foot in the gym after sitting all day at your desk at work or waking up in the morning and dive right into some serious stretching.
This will likely just leave you injured and in some serious pain. The muscles are tight and tense and stretching them too far is definitely enough to evoke an injury.
Instead, perform a very light warm-up first.
This could include 5 minutes of walking or even just some arm and leg swings along with gentle side bends.
The idea is to get the blood flowing throughout the body and the muscle tissues warmed up so that you can easily go about your stretches from there.
How To Execute Your Stretches
Now we come to the actual execution of your stretching exercises. The important thing to note here is that you never want to bounce. You so often see people in the gym bouncing in and out of their stretches as they think doing so is going to help to increase the range of motion they’re able to move through and improve their flexibility.
Don’t be fooled. Bouncing is a fast track to injury.
While it’s true that you do want to push yourself into a point of slight discomfort (not pain) to increase the range of motion, you definitely should not bounce the body into place to get there.
The second thing that you’ll want to note while doing your sessions is that you must remember to breathe.
One big mistake that many people make as they execute their stretches is forgetting entirely to breathe in and out, which just increases the amount of stress and tension in the muscle, working against you.
You’ll often find that if you’re holding a stretch, take a deep breath in, and then blow that breath out, your body will instantly start to relax and you’ll be able to move deeper into the stretch you want to perform.
Your breathing pattern should be relatively slow and controlled, using a three count in and a three count out – or slower.
How Long To Hold Each Stretch
When it comes to how long you should hold each stretch, aim for about ten to fifteen seconds. You aren’t aiming to do a complete stretching session here before your workout is to begin, but rather just to get the muscles loose and limber so that you’re ready to proceed for your workout.
If you’re holding the stretches for longer than 30 seconds, you may find that you get a little too loose and relaxed and it becomes harder and harder to keep up the intensity that you’re looking for in that workout in question.
Stretching is an excellent form of relaxation exercise to be doing, but save that form of relaxation for later on when you don’t have a weight lifting workout on deck.
The Flexibility Factor
Finally, it also must be mentioned that pre-workout is not the time to really work on improving your flexibility a great deal.
While you do want to increase your range of motion so that your body is ready to execute all the exercises you have planned, if you want to work on boosting your flexibility, this is better left until the end of the workout session.
Improving your flexibility is going to require you to hold those stretches longer and as we just indicated, this isn’t ideal right before your workout is going to be performed.
Flexibility training will also require more intensive stretches as well, while before the workout you’re likely just doing some simple toe touches, shoulder stretches, side bends, and quad stretches.
When you’re working on flexibility you want to be seated so you can be fully relaxed and really pushing the muscles further beyond their initial range of motion.
So there you have a few important tips to keep in mind with regards to stretching before your workout. It should only take you about five to ten minutes to get through your pre-workout stretching but the difference it can have on your workout quality will be very noticeable.
You’ll reduce your risk of suffering from an injury and for many people, the act of stretching helps them mentally prepare for the session ahead, so this can also help to increase the amount of force and intensity they’re able to generate as they go about their exercises.
So don’t skip over stretching any longer. Be smart with your pre-workout stretches and you’ll reap all the benefits they have to offer.