No matter what type of exercise routine you use, whether its running, calisthenics or even martial arts, most instructors or fitness experts have you stretch first, before starting your workout. Stretching your muscles helps reduce injury later by providing a wider range of motion, more flexibility and improved co-ordination. It’s like a dry run, safely putting your muscles through the paces before asking it to do the tough work.
Warm your muscles before you stretch.
Stretching cold, stiff muscles is worse than not stretching at all. Warming your body includes increasing your heart rate, which in turn gets your blood circulating faster and sends more oxygen laden blood to your extremities. You don’t have to spend all your workout time warming up. In fact, five minutes or so is adequate to help prevent injury.
Stretch your body properly or you’ll feel it hurt.
Sometimes people stretch and you hear them moan a bit or verbalize pain. That means they’re doing something wrong. Stretching should never hurt. You do it to avoid injury, not create it, so if you feel pain, stop what you’re doing back it up a bit and take your warm up stretching slower and less aggressive. Bouncing to get your muscles stretched, such as bending down to touch your toes and bouncing to get to that position, can also cause injury. Just take it slow and you’ll get there.
Breathe properly while you stretch.
Stretching is all about getting the muscles more oxygen and nutrients, warming them up with blood flow, so to speak. If you’re holding your breath the whole time, you’re counterproductive to the goal. Breathing deeply throughout the stretch not only increases the oxygen in your system, it also helps develop the lung muscles and is basically a warm-up for them.
Learning to do each exercise or movement correctly is another way to prevent injury. That’s why people often use a personal trainer when starting any kind of new sport or exercise regimen.
Stretching after the exercise also helps. It helps prevent stiff muscles and returns them slowly to a relaxed state.
If you have limited range of motion or stiff muscles, work with a personal trainer to help you build all aspects of fitness, but work more heavily on flexibility.
Some types of exercise, such as kickboxing or Muay Thai require the body to be flexible to do the moves correctly without injury to your body. You won’t be able to kick as high as you want if you don’t have adequate flexibility and that requires stretching.