The ideal workout program includes stretching, because just like your strength exercises, balanced flexibility training makes for a healthier body.
There’s some science that disputes the benefits of stretching before a workout, Brad Walker, “The Stretch Coach,” explained for The Stretching Institute. This may lead you to question whether flexibility workouts are important at all. However, Walker explained the immediate effect of stretching isn’t why it’s so vital. Incorporating balanced flexibility training into your workouts is more about long-term injury prevention than immediate payoff. Whether you train for muscle gain, fat reduction or anything else, ensuring your muscles are working at their best is important. Walker noted that by identifying the weaker parts of your body, in terms of flexibility, and focusing on those areas in your stretching routine you can optimize those muscles’ performance overall.
So what stretches are best to prevent injury? In the end, that depends on where your body is weakest. But there are a few basic flexibility exercises to work into your routine:
Regular foam rolling
Researchers studied foam rolling for the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and found that these stretching tools work, according to Runners Connect. The researchers took male volunteers and split them into two groups – one that used foam rollers before an intensive squat routine, and one that didn’t. The researchers found those who used the foam rollers had slightly improved range of motion, better vertical leaping ability and less soreness in the following days. Find rolling routines that focus on your particular areas of weakness to increase your performance and reduce aches.
Balance your back
The muscle group in your back is important not only during your workout routine, but also in everyday tasks. You use your back muscles a lot, even when you’re not trying to, which is why it’s important to keep this part of your body stabilized to prevent injury. Stuart M. McGill, director of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo, told Live Science he and his team of researchers found the three best beginners workouts to improve coordination among the various muscles in your back. These stretches are the bird dog, the side plan and the modified curl.
Protect your joints like jewels
Why do athletes always seem to injure their knees and shoulders? Joints and the various moving parts that comprise them are some of the more finicky components of the human body. They’re easily injured without the proper care. Chest expansions, seated twists and arm-across-chest stretches are some of the best stretches for preventing shoulder pain, Genesis Orthopedics and Sports Medicine explained. For knee pain, foam rolling can help reduce the IT band issues that can contribute to joint discomfort. Also, regularly stretching the muscle groups in your legs with wall sits and lateral work can stabilize your knee and prevent injury.
Stretching to protect your most important muscles groups and joints will improve your range of motion and recovery capabilities, and contribute to a balanced and healthy body. Stretching is a long-term exercise commitment. Like weight-loss training, it may not yield immediate results, but in the end your stabilized muscle groups will be better for it.