So you have got the hard part out of the way and found the motivation and enthusiasm to embark upon an exercise regime! The next step is to now find ways to enhance your efforts and maximise the efficiency of your workout. One great way to do this is to add stretching into your regime - both before and after your workout.

Not only can stretching be beneficial for your efforts in the gym but can also help to increase your flexibility and range of motion, which is helpful for everyday activities and tasks.  

Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why stretching should feature regularly in your life!

Stretching Can Improve Athletic Performance

It has been shown that stretching both before and after your workout has the potential to help boost your performance.  

Many professional athletes prepare themselves for their activity immediately beforehand by including stretching in their warmup. This usually takes the form of dynamic stretching, which is a kind of stretching that works to improve the range of motion.

Dynamic stretches are those that involve an active stretch where the position is not held at the end of the stretch, but is ongoing. The opposite to this type of stretching is static stretching, during which the body is held in position at the end of the stretch.

Studies suggest that dynamic stretching is a useful act to engage in post-workout in order to boost performance, whereas pre-exercise static stretching may have the reverse effect and actually hinder performance.

Stretching throughout your workout can also help to keep your strength up as you work through your sets when lifting weights. When you do this it is important that you do not stretch the muscles that you are using for the exercise in question. Instead, try to stretch the antagonist muscles. For example, if you are doing a chest exercise then stretch your back during your rest time, and if you are doing a back exercise then stretch your chest during your rest time.

Stretching Can Reduce Injury Risk

Although there is little solid evidence to confirm the idea that stretching can reduce injury risk, there have been many studies conducted in relation to this. However, it can be said with certainty that warming up (such as through the use of stretching) can improve the flexibility of certain joints. It can be argued that with increased flexibility there is also a decreased risk of injury as the body is more prepared for the activity.

Stretching Helps Combat Stress

The act of stretching itself can be quite relaxing for both the body and the mind. Whilst you are engaging in a stretch you may physically feel the relief in your muscles, but stress and tension will be experiencing a relief also. This is true of stretching whether you are doing it in the gym before and after a workout, or if you are simply taking some time to do it during the day.

After a good stretch you will likely feel as though your batteries have been recharged and your enthusiasm for the day has been refreshed. This has the potential to help you emotionally and physically refuel and power through your day.

Getting Started With Stretching

If you are now ready to embrace stretching as a consistent part of your fitness regime, or simply as a once-a-day activity in your life, then the following technique will be perfect for getting started.

10 - 15 minutes of this routine will adequately warm the body and allow for the aforementioned stress relieving benefits. 

Begin by standing in an upright position with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands by your sides. You can then step forwards with your right foot into a lunge position. Allow the fingertips from both of your hands to touch the floor. Take a deep breath in and straighten your right leg as you exhale. You can then do the same on the left side. Repeat this process five times before returning to your standing upright position.

Raise your arms directly up above your head and hold your hands together. Take a deep breath in as you reach up as far as you can and then exhale as you lean your body to the right. Take three deep breaths in and out whilst you hold this position and then return to the centre. Repeat on the opposite side. 

Continue to repeat the combination of these two exercises for between 10 to 15 minutes as suggested before embarking upon your exercise regime. Once you have completed this workout you can also go through a further 10 to 15 minutes of this stretching technique. In doing so you can find that you are better equipped both physically and mentally for your workout, as well as more relaxed and free from tension following your session.

References

1) https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/three-reasons-you-should-stretch-every-day

2) http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/does-stretching-reduce-injury-risk-0