Trainers say a lot of things. You genuinely try to retain it all, but sometimes all you're trying to do is get through the next set. Between engaging your core, keeping your spine neutral, and counting your macros, your trainer's advice may start to sound like gentle nagging. But like Mom, they do want what's best for you, and this case, they want you to be able to build your best body and they're just trying to empower you to get there. There is one thing they wish you would do that they know you just won't. What is that one thing? You need to stretch. Really!
Stretching, It's Not Just For Yogis
No matter how pressed for time you are, skipping your stretching session at the beginning and end of your workout can do everything from set you up for injury to limit your range of motion and ding your overall workout performance.
That's right, without the bendy-stretchy stuff in a workout, you're only going to set yourself back, when you could be increasing results.
Two Main Types of Stretching
There are many methods of stretching the body, before and after a workout, and sometimes people can get it mixed up. According to certified personal trainer Heather Neff, there are two main types of stretching:
Dynamic, or active, stretching should always be done prior to your workout. This will warm the muscles making them more pliable and get the blood flowing. A dynamic stretch would be something like reaching down to touch your toes, coming back up, and reaching down again with no holding in between.
Static stretches are ones that you hold for a certain amount of time. There is no bouncing and no movement during these stretches and they should never be done with cold muscles (do them only after you've completed your workout). An example of a static stretch would be a cobra stretch.
This Is Why We Stretch at the Beginning of a Workout
Think of your muscles like a piece of taffy — when it's nice and warm, you can stretch it out easily. But, when that taffy is cold, it doesn't budge much, does it? This is the same idea behind warming up the muscles.
Imagine you're about to perform a deadlift without warming up first. If you do, according to Neff, "you may inhibit your full range of motion by having tightness in the back, the hamstrings, and more due to cold muscles, which limits your full potential within these types of lifts and can cause muscle strains."
That's why it's important to get in some type of warmup stretches before you workout. Neff told us that you can do anything from jumping jacks, standing toe touches, torso twists, or even a few light warmup reps that pertain to the exercise you'll be performing. Just think of your dynamic stretches as a primer for your workout.
This Is Why We Stretch After a Workout
You never just want to abruptly stop your workout and go on about your day. Why? Because when you're exercising, extra blood is rushed to the larger muscles in the lower limbs to deliver much needed nutrients and oxygen. When you stop suddenly, that blood begins to pool and the heart rate slows, and this can cause extra strain on the heart to pump the blood back up. This can also causes dizziness and possibly fainting.
That's where your static stretching comes in. According to Neff, "static stretches are the types of stretches that you hold for a period of time; unlike dynamic stretching, there is no movement within them and they are the best way cool yourself down and return the heart to its normal resting condition."
Now that you know, you'll definitely only have yourself to blame if you find yourself getting muscle strains or injuries and nobody wants that! Go ahead and take the extra few minutes before and after your workout — it'll make your trainer happy and your body ecstatic!