Stretches improve the flexibility and makes your muscles more supple, there by improving the performance in sports and exercise activities. Stretching also improves the range of motion of your joints, muscles to bend, twist and reach at various angles. Stretching, especially before your exercise or workout routine helps as it reduces the risk of injury, muscle tears, sprain and ligament tears.
There are broadly two type of stretches – dynamic stretches and static stretches
- Dynamic Stretches – As the name says, they involve motion! The dynamic stretches involve stretches that also includes a range of motion such as torso rotations, side arm raises, chest expansion etc. This is also a kind of preparatory or warm up activity that wakes your body up, before performing exercises. Dynamic stretches are usually done before your workout routine
- Static Stretches – Static stretches on the other hand involves elongating or stretching muscles and holding the position for a few seconds. Ex – Hamstring stretch, where you sit on the floor and reach to your toes. The idea is to release the tension that was caused during the excessive strain caused during the exercise and make the muscles more relaxed, pliable. It also reduces the chance of muscle pulls after the exercise. Static stretches are done after the workout routine
Point to note – Static stretches, while are helpful for recovery after a workout, if performed before exercise, can significantly affect the performance and strength as it relaxes the muscle. It also reduces the blood flow and also make it less alert towards the CNS activity (central nervous system activity)
The science explained in layman terms – When you exercise and lifts/pushes/pulls a load, you are essentially contracting the muscles in your body. After your workout, these muscles remain contracted for some more time. The subsequent restoration of muscles to its usual length is part of the recovery; hence when you stretch after your workout, you are enabling the recovery much more effectively. A muscle that is better restored (after contraction) is more responsive to further contraction – i.e more responsive to activities. This is why static stretches can significantly reduce your DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) i.e the muscle soreness that happens after a day or two of your workout.
Yet another point to note – Yoga is awesome! They are perfect for various type of stretches that not only improves the flexibility, but also improves mindfulness
Is warm up and stretching the same?
Well, not really – but lets say they are related… cousins may be 🙂 !! A warm up activity is usually light aerobic activity and a few dynamic stretches that prepares you physically and mentally for the exercise that you are going to perform. Most of them may involve the muscle groups that you are going to engage in your exercise routine and may mimic the activity that you are going to perform. Quite logically, this will increase the heart rate and hence the the blood flow to the muscles there by ‘warming them up’!
Once your muscles are plush with increased supply of oxygen through the blood, they are less stiff and hence more responsive to nerve signals that engages these muscles.