The benefits of stretching are often overlooked, and when we’re short of time, we skip stretching completely. But a few minutes spent stretching your muscles and joints after your workout improves your flexibility and increases your range of motion. Consider these benefits:
Benefits of Post Workout Stretching
Post workout stretching increases flexibility and elongates muscles and muscle fibers at the ideal time, while warm and well oxygenated following your training. Stretching also reduces muscular tension and returns contracted muscles back to their original form.
According to the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation consistent post workout stretching develops flexibility. As you continue to stretch, over time you will find it easier to squat, bend, and stand more easily and without pain.
Increased Range Of Motion
Post workout stretching will increase joint flexibility and range of motion using gentle static stretches. You should stretch just past the point of tension without over stretching to the point of pain. You will gradually be able to stretch further over time as your muscles adapt to the increased demand to lengthen.
In a Brazilian study published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research an 8-week stretching training program improved hamstring flexibility and hip range of motion with respect to the participants’ initial conditions by over 30%.
Foam Rolling Enhances Post Workout Stretching
You can increase the focus and effectiveness of stretching after training by incorporating a simple and inexpensive foam roller to promote myofascial release to reduce tightness and pain. Foam rolling and self-massage also provide many other benefits.
What Stretching Won’t Do
Reduce Muscle Soreness
Stretching after working out does not significantly reduce muscular soreness. It was once thought that post workout stretching reduced the buildup of lactic acid in muscle fibers which caused delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
We now know that the pain experienced in the 24-48 hours after training is the result of microtrauma, tiny tears in muscle fibers caused by training. No amount of post-workout stretching reduces muscle soreness.
Recent research published in the Journal of Athletic Training detailing the effect of post-workout stretching on muscle injury, found only a small (5%) effect. While post workout stretching is beneficial to health and fitness, it does not significantly reduce injuries.
Psychological Benefits of Post Workout Stretching
The Mind-Body Connection
As you relax and stretch after your workout, you are able to connect and tune into how your body feels. You become aware of individual muscles, joints, and many individual body parts – this is the mind-body connection, useful in relaxation and stress relief.
Stretching reduces stress and tension while relaxing the muscles you have just flexed and contracted. Stretching immediately after your workout will increase the circulation of nutrient and oxygen rich blood to the deep tissues and aid in their recovery and repair.
Improves Your Mood and Outlook
Stretching and deep breathing encourage the release of endorphins, the hormones that activate your brain’s opiate receptors, providing pain relief and a sense of tranquility and happiness.