Stretching has gotten a bad reputation in the fitness industry. Just like cardio, people will say it’ll negatively affect your progression. The fact is, with cardio, it’ll only affect you if you don’t consume enough calories to make up for the extra work. With stretching, it’ll only affect you if you do the wrong stretches, at the wrong times.
Static stretching before lifting can decrease your performance, as it removes a lot of tension from your muscles. Normall, that’d be a good thing. But when it comes to lifting, tension is what you want to be able to control heavier weights. In this study on Chronic Effects Of Static Stretching On Lifting, the results showed that after a 10 week program of lifting, the three groups (stretched before lifting, stretched during, no stretching), all increased strength, however the group that did no stretching saw a much higher amount of strength gains. This is due to stretching weakening the muscles before you use them in heavy lifting, so less weight lifted = less strength gains. If you are going to do static stretches, do so after your workout. Not only will you not lose strength, but static stretches are more effective when the muscles are already warmed up.
If you don’t want to weaken your muscles, focus instead on a dynamic routine pre-workout. Jump squats, T push-ups, lunge with a twist, are all types of dynamic stretches. You can also simply do some light cardio to warm up, however this doesn’t help with stretching, so we won’t include it in the list of dynamic stretches.
Anyway, to get back to the point, here are 10 reasons to start stretching today!
1. Increase Quality of Life
This is probably the most compelling reason to start stretching. If you are focusing on increasing your range of motion, and keep up with it, it’ll help you much later in life. Getting old means reduced mobility, among other things, but if you stretch regularly, you can almost cut that reduced mobility to nil.
When you’re old and grey, you can start stretching then, but starting now will be immensely more effective, and you won’t have to try so hard to regain lost mobility, if you never lost it at all.
2. Increases Blood Flow
Stretching has been proven to increase circulation, and increased blood flow means your muscles can get more oxygen and nutrients to them. If this happens, they will recover more quickly, both while working out, and when you’re resting up. That means you’ll be able to do more work, in less time, therefore increasing performance. Being able to do more work over time = more gains! It’s the same case with doing your cardio, as that also increases circulation.
Increased blood flow doesn’t mean only to the muscles, but your brain and organs will also receive numerous benefits. It promotes cell growth, ensures your organs are properly fed, increases brain function, and even helps fight off bacteria.
3. Better Posture
Having bad posture doesn’t only look bad, but will cause you pain and discomfort. Not only short term, but long term. Lower back pain is one of the most common symptoms of bad posture, and making sure you stretch regularly can alleviate that problem.
Besides the health benefits, having good posture simply looks better. People will notice if you have bad posture, or if it’s good, and they may judge you based on it. You wouldn’t want to have bad posture when you’re in a job interview, would you?
4. Stretching To Get More Muscular
Stretching can actually help you build muscle. The connective tissue around the muscles are constricting. If you stretch them out, there is more room for your muscles, and it’s easier for them to grow. Not only that, but when you stretch the muscle, is can increase separation and improve the overall aesthetic of the muscles.
The key to making this work is doing it when you have a pump. You don’t need to focus on stretching your legs if you just hit arms, so make sure to stretch your arms. Having a pump makes the stretches more effective, as the muscle is already partially stretching the connective tissues due to the increased size of the pump.
5. Reduce Risk Of Injury
If you have more flexible joints and tissue, you are at a much lower risk of injury. Say you had tight pecs, and you went too low on a dumbbell bench press with heavy weights and overstretched them, you could get injured. Having an increased range of motion allows you do go further without risk.
The increase in circulation mentioned earlier also means that if you did get injured, you’d recover faster as well.
6. Improves Body Awareness
Regularly focusing on your body with stretches increases body control and awareness, and allows you to move around more efficiently. Not only that, but being able to fold yourself over and grab the backs of your ankles is impressive.
7. Preps The Muscles For Exercise
As opposed to static, dynamic stretching is beneficial to your workouts. It’ll not only warm up the necessary muscles beforehand, but it’ll also help increase your range of motion, while not relieving too much tension from your muscles. As well as the physical benefits, it has mental benefits, as you will ‘feel’ more ready for the workout.
Properly warming up is also paramount to reduce the risk of injury, so don’t go straight into lifting your max as soon as you step in the gym.
8. You’ll Feel More Relaxed
This is why you should do it after the workout. If you stretch before, and you relax your muscles, you’ll decrease performance. however, that doesn’t matter post-workout. So doing static stretching at the end of a workout, or on your rest days will relax your muscles, and leave you feeling more relaxed overall, much like the wolf in the image above!
Feeling relaxed will have the effect of allowing you to have a better sense of well-being, and promote happiness. Who wouldn’t want to be happy?
9. Increase Energy Levels
I should add that this does not mean you should do it pre/intra-workout for more energy. It’s more for throughout the day. The increased blood flow will give you a boost of energy, and you only need a few minutes of stretching to achieve this. So next time you’re feeling, tired or run down, take a few minutes, and stretch yourself out. You’ll feel much better and energized afterwards.
10. Enhanced Co-ordination
Stretching actually improves balance and co-ordination. A study on 21 males and 21 females about this subject found that after 30 minutes of stretching, time spent on the Stabilometer increased by 11.4%, compared to the non stretching group.
Having better co-ordination is also one of the best aspects when it comes to aging. Alongside the reduced mobility, you can find you’re more prone to slips, trips, and falls. Bettering your balance through stretches will inevitably reduce the likelihood of any of those happening, and allow you to be more confident to do whatever you like.
In conclusion, dynamic stretching before workout, static after. Try to do at least 30 minutes every day of stretching to see great results. Although, even just 5 minutes a day is 10x better than none. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re feeling tight, or tired, you sometimes stretch out automatically. That’s because it’s ingrained in everyone to do it, rather than something you learn by seeing others do so.
There are zero downsides to being more flexible. The only thing holding you back is your decision to invest your time in it. If you do, the rewards you reap will be amazing.