Ever heard your fitness trainer say, "Do not leave before you stretch". There are days you enter the gym and are so excited to just start lifting iron but are warned about stretching first before you do so. Why is it so important to stretch before and after your workout? We all know about warming up your muscle fibers to prevent injury and hence stretch them before workout, but why after? Is there a difference between the pre and post workout stretches? If so, what points should be kept in mind while designing your stretching routine. To prevent yourself from long- term injuries and get the best of your workouts, read on.
Firstly, a stretch can be defined as extending your muscle fiber to its maximum capacity without tearing it. For example, bend down and pull your toes up with your finger while keeping the knee straight, that's stretching your calf muscle fibers. There are several types of stretches, but for our understanding and simplicity, lets talk about two main kinds, static and dynamic stretches.
A static stretch is performed when the targeted muscle is moved to its end range and held in that position for a period of up to 30 seconds. Think of this as the kind of stretches your trainer mostly gives you towards the end of your workout. For example, as you lie down on the floor facing up, she/ he would raise one leg and push it towards your belly holding it there for a few seconds. Ideally static stretches are suggested post workout. Note though, that there might be exceptions for clients with specific injuries.
Static stretches can be further subdivided into active and passive kind. Active stretch is when there is no external push but you push your body deeper into the stretch. Eg stretching your biceps of one hand with the other hand. A passive stretch is when a partner or external object applies force from outside. Example would be when a trainer pulls your elbows back stretching your chest muscles.
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