Essential Pre and Post Workout Stretches
When it comes to exercising, stretching is one of the most essential elements of any workout. Not only does it prepare your body properly for exercise, it allows your body to cool down efficiently and relax those hard-worked muscles post-workout. If you don’t stretch properly before and after exercise, you run the risk of causing injury. That’s why we have put together a step-to-step guide providing you with everything you need to know about stretches and which are best suited to both pre and post-workout.
Why do stretches?
- Reduces pain and stiffness
- Improves health
- Enhances range of motion
- Improves muscular function
- Reduces risk of injury
- Decreases stress
- Enhances performance
- Improves blood flow and circulation
- Minimises wear and tear on joints
- Improves quality of exercise, health and overall life
There are several types of stretching techniques, but the two most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic.
What are dynamic stretches?
Dynamic stretches are usually done before exercise to prepare your muscles for movement. These are normally in the form of active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but is not held in an end position.
Dynamic = exercise to prepare your muscles.
What are static stretches?
Static stretches are the most beneficial form of stretching after exercise. Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for around 10 to 30 seconds.
Static = exercises to reduce the risk of injury.
How to warm up before exercise
Warming up your body before a workout and stretching your muscles after prevents soreness. Here are some quick and easy warm up moves to try:
A light jog
Whether it’s on the spot or a short distance, a light jog is perfect for getting your muscles moving and warmed up. You can also modify this to a power walk if jogging is too intense.
Jumping jacks are a perfect exercise for a light intensity pre-workout. They instantly activate various muscle groups and get your heart race pumping. If you find the jumping jack too intense, step your feet out instead of jumping for a lower-impact alternative.
March on the spot (for 3 minutes)
Pumping your arms up and down alongside the rhythm of your steps, keeping your elbows bent and fists soft is a great way to get your heart rate raised and your body moving in preparation for exercise.
Bring alternative knees to touch the opposite hand. Keep your back straight and your stomach tight. This prepares your leg muscles and reduces the chance of strain injury.
Whilst marching on the spot, roll your shoulders forwards 5 times and backward 5 times while leaving your arms hanging loose.
Knee bends (10 repetitions)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your hands stretched out. Lower yourself by bending your knees no more than 10cm. Come back up to a standing position and repeat.
How to stretch after exercise
Full leg stretch
After any exercise where you have worked muscles in your legs, you need to fully stretch your leg to prevent any stiffness occurring the next day. Legs are the part of the body that are prone to getting sore easily.
The stretch works best after you have got your heart rate going. The most effective way to complete this stretch is by standing on one leg and grabbing your alternative foot and pulling it towards the back of your body. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat, switching from your left leg to your right (or vice versa).
Complete this stretch by lying on your back and bringing your knees up to your chest. Cross your right leg over your left thigh and then grasp the back of your left thigh with both hands, then pull your left leg towards your chest. (Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat with the other leg).
Again, lie on your back and raise one of your legs and hold with both hands below your knee. Keep the other leg bent with your foot firmly on the floor and pull the raised leg towards you keeping it as straight as possible. (Repeat with the opposite leg).
Inner thigh stretch
Complete this stretch by sitting down with your back straight and your legs bent and soles of your feet together. Holding your feet attempt to lower your knees towards the floor. (Hold this move for 10 to 15 seconds).
Step your preferred leg forward, keeping it bent, lean forward slightly. Keep your alternative leg straight and try to lower that heel to the ground. (Repeat with the opposite leg).
Lie on your preferred side and grab the top of your foot and gently pull your heel towards your buttock to stretch the front of your thigh and hold for 10 to 15 minutes. (Repeat on the other side).
What are the best stretches to do before running?
Getting your body ready to run is just as important as the run itself. It’s good to do some dynamic stretches before running, these will dynamically mobilise the muscles and get the blood pumping around essential areas.
- Lying glute stretch against the wall
- Groin stretch
- Upper calf stretch
- Lower calf stretch
- Lliotibial band stretch
Top tips when stretching
- Don’t stretch cold muscles. It is best to warm up before a run and then stretch after.
- Ease into your stretches; don’t force or rush it.
- Before speed work hold a stretch for 10-15 seconds
- After a run, hold each stretch for 10 seconds and then repeat once or twice on each leg.
- Avoid certain stretches that can hamper your performance or increase your risk of a pull or tear.
How can I relieve muscle pain after exercise?
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid muscle soreness after a vigorous routine. Implementing these muscle treatments can help ease the pain and speed up the muscle recovery process following a tough workout.
- Hydrate – Hydration is important before and throughout a workout. Water is the best choice for this, make sure your water bottle is full before a workout. If you’re wanting to replace electrolytes and sodium lost during a vigorous workout you can try low-calorie sports drinks or sports nutrition.
- An ice bath – athletes are strongly encouraged to jump in an ice bath immediately after a tough or long workout for a 10-minute soak. Cold baths have been found to significantly reduce muscle soreness.
- Heat up later in the day – A few hours after an intense session, try applying a pad or other heat source. The reason most people suffer from sore muscles is due to muscle tightness. Heating up the muscles, stimulating blood flow and loosening up sore muscles with heat can speed up the healing process. Here at Greaves Sports, we have support for your back, arms or wherever you’re facing an injury that provides therapeutic heat and protection which can relieve pressure when exercising.
- Light massage – The Hypervolt is a cordless vibration massage device that relieves muscle stiffness and soreness, increases circulation and range of motion, and improves the overall health of the body’s soft tissue. The lightweight ergonomic design makes for easy-to-use self-myofascial release.