Editors Note: This is a contribution written by John Accardi.
A lot of guys think that adding a daily stretching routine to their workout is a waste of time. This is anything but the truth! Stretching for only 5-10 minutes a day can give you some amazing benefits that will improve your workouts and your health.
Neglecting stretching is just setting you up for injury and slower recovery. It is important we keep our muscles long, lean and limber.
1. Greater Strength
Stretching increases strength by improving circulation and blood flow to the muscles. This not only provides greater nutrients to every muscle of the body but helps those muscles recover faster in between workouts. The increased blood flow helps prevent soreness and muscles fatigue during recovery periods and allows for more frequent high-intensity workouts.
2. More Flexibility
Stretching is the most effective way to improve flexibility. As the body ages, muscles shorten and tighten. This decreases range of motion, and increases the chance of tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue injuries. Flexibility also helps with fluid motion in athletic performance. Watch out not to over stretch though – overly flexible muscles are injury prone and give you a sloppiness when moving. You can see this sometimes in people who overdo it with Yoga.
3. Good for Circulation
Lengthening and loosening the muscles helps dramatically with circulation. Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.
4. Reduced Stress
Stretching reduces stress through loosening the muscles and relieving built up tension. It also releases endorphins in the brain that can cause a feeling of wellbeing and calmness. It is also thought that stretching reduces stress through a mechanism similar to meditation or yoga in that it promotes a state of mindfulness. This is especially true for the muscles around your neck and shoulders – stretch these out in the evening for a good nights sleep.
5. Increased Range of Motion
An increased range of motion in the joints has many benefits and stretching is the best way to achieve this. It improves balance which decreases risk of injury and improves athletic performance. It also allows for more complete workouts, whether it be swimming, jogging, or lifting, an increased range of motion will allow for better form and complete muscle recruitment.
You have all seen people with tight hunched up postures. This comes from a lack of stretching and normally overdoing it with weight training or sitting at desks hunched over all day. Be sure to give yourself a good stretch, breathing into the muscle you’re stretching to further increase the stretch.