Essential Pre and Post Workout Stretches

Recovery

When it comes to exercising, stretching is a great way to warm up before and cool down after a workout. If you don’t do so properly, you run the risk of not recovering properly and potentially causing injury. Runners, swimmers and weightlifters can all benefit from stretching exercises and yoga as they improve your mobility and range of motion. This range of motion comes in handy whether you are on the running track, reaching out in-front of you to perform a front crawl, or lifting heavy weights in the gym.

Why stretch before and after working out?

  1. Reduces pain and stiffness
  2. Improves health
  3. Enhances range of motion (mobility)
  4. Improves muscular function
  5. Reduces risk of injury
  6. Decreases stress
  7. Enhances performance
  8. Improves blood flow and circulation 
  9. Minimises wear and tear on joints
  10. 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. 

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.

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 before your workout:

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 

Any exercise that involves some kind of explosive movement primes the muscles to work cohesively together. For example, jumping jacks and explosive pushups not only work the main muscle groups involved, but also recruit the surrounding muscles to help. If you find the jumping jack too intense, step your feet out instead of jumping for a lower-impact alternative.

March or running on the spot

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. 

Knee lifts 

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. 

Passive Hanging

Passive hanging is a great stretching technique that really opens up the shoulder joints. With humans spending so much time hunched over when typing on laptops or scrolling through phones, the shoulder joint is not being used in it's natural range of motion. Passive hanging can be hard for beginners but even supporting yourself underneath, as long as your shoulders are stretched out it's a great warm up.

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. Your legs are prone to getting sore easily.

Quad stretch 

To complete a quad stretch, stand 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). 

Glute stretch

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). 

Hamstring stretch

The easiest way to stretch your hamstrings is to lie with both legs flat on the floor outstretched in front of you. Sit up and slowly lean forward and try to touch your toes. 

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). 

Calf stretch 

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).

Thigh stretch  

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. 

  1. Lying glute stretch against the wall 
  2. Groin stretch 
  3. Upper & Lower calf stretch
  4. Iliotibial 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. If your goal is to build muscle, wait a good few hours after your weights session as ice baths can de-flame the muscle fibres which can stunt muscle growth.
  • 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. 

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