I’m about to head to the gym and wanted to write a quick blog post on stretching. Should we be stretching? Does it actually work? If you look on the internet there is lots of mixed opinions and contradicting information, it can get very confusing!
Firstly, yes I do think stretching is very important! I come from a dance background where the teachers would help you into extreme stretches which would benefit different dance styles. Ok, so within the gym environment we don’t really need ‘extreme’ stretches. But being flexibility does help range of movement and function. It also does ease muscle soreness or DOMS.
Stretching to ease muscle soreness:
I think it’s very important to stretch before exercising or after, depending on your body. Personally, I prefer to stretch before. This way I am warming up and lengthening the muscles in preparation for different movements and tightness our muscles may feel. I don’t tend to stretch before doing Pilates as Pilates helps me lengthen and stretch muscles while toning them. Although, If you are new to Pilates I would recommend stretching. It is a full body work out using muscles most people have not used before. Once you get used to a few classes you will feel more at ease, I promise!
Benefits of stretching –
- Warms up your muscles and warns them what parts of your body you will be working
- Avoids injuries
- Avoids DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Create tone and lengthen muscles
- Increases range of movement
Stretching to improve range of movement:
Stretching can be a great way of helping you achieve your goals within exercises. For example, if you are wanting to improve on a lot of Pilates exercises (single leg stretch is one) you could use a hamstring stretch with a band. Having tight hamstrings will make the movement a lot harder than someone who has their legs by their ears! While your struggling to reach your legs with your hands and maintain neutral spine. The other person with great hamstring flexibility, will be concentrating on neutral spine and pelvis, and so on. It really is beneficial to try to improve flexibility for certain movements. Pilates will provide gaining control of the flexibility.
- Always stretch before or after exercise to avoid injuries and DOMS
- Ice for injuries
- Heat for muscle soreness
- Keep mobile if you have muscle soreness to avoid ‘freezing up’ this is so important, it reduces recovery by ten fold!
- Isolate muscles for range of movement