As I’m sure you all know, stretching is a vital component of every workout, be it a session in the gym, playing football, having a game of badminton or going for a run.
However, it's also one of the most misunderstood areas of fitness, even for the more experienced fitness fanatic.
Core Warm Up
The first thing to say is that, stretching alone is not “warming up”, which may come as a surprise to all those whose pre exercise routine consist of touching their toes a couple of times.
As the name suggests, warming up is about getting your core temperature increased to prepare the body for exercise. Think of a car. Its engine will not start working efficiently straight away. It has to heat up first, and your body is exactly the same.
So to warm up that engine you should be looking to do around 10 minutes of light aerobic activity before you start any stretching. This could consists of a light jog, skipping, star jumps, indeed anything to get your heart pumping faster.
Activate the Joints
The next stage of your warm up should be to activate your joints. (If you want to be technical about it, you are actually lubricating the entire joint with synovial fluid). This is a lot simpler than it sounds and involves rotating your joints slowly clockwise and counter clockwise.
Now you're warmed up you can start doing some stretches. This may differ from what you are used to. Many people will think of stretching as touching your toes and holding it for a count of 30, for example.
These are called “static” stretches and although they are important they should actually come at the end of a workout. At this stage, directly after your warm up, you should be trying “dynamic” stretches.
Dynamic stretching are controlled movements that, gently, take you to the limits of your range of motion. This could be arm swings, squats, lunges, leg raises, hip circles and twists among others. You're aiming to do these as many times as it takes to comfortably reach your full range of motion.
And now you are ready for your workout!
After your work out
Now you’re finished make sure you don’t just head straight for the showers! Take around 10 minutes to slowly cool down from your activities and then its time for those static stretches to come into play.
Stretching after exercise can help to relax and balance tension on the muscles that have just been exercised. Static stretches are probably the type you recognise most. They should be held for around 30 seconds for you to feel the full benefit. Examples of static stretches include hamstring (such as touching your toes), calf, thigh (lifting your heel to your bum) and groin (side splits).
Now you can hit the showers!
And don't worry if you're not sure about a few of the stretches. Why not pop into your local Glasgow Club and have a chat to one of our fitness instructor who would be happy to help.