Have you ever wanted to skip post-workout stretches? Did you say something along the lines of “I’ll stretch later,” or “I don’t have time for that”?
After an intense sweat session, you might feel so tired and sore that it’s tempting to skip cooldowns.
While it’s so easy to jump straight to the shower after your workout, there are scientific reasons why you should take the time to stretch. Find out more as you read below.
What are Post-Workout Stretches?
When you finish a training session, your body temperature’s up, and so is your heart rate. To bring your heart rate and temperature safely back to normal, you need to stretch your limbs out.
Post-workout stretches help you cool down and kickstart your body’s recovery phase. There are 2 types of stretches you can choose from: static and dynamic.
Static stretching involves you staying put and holding a position for a few seconds. Some common examples of these are:
- Touching your toes
- Stretching your triceps over your head
- Bending and straightening your knees
On the other hand, dynamic stretches are short, controlled movements that keep your energy level up. A few examples you can do are:
- Walking lunges
- Side shuffles
- Light, slow walk
Is It Better to Stretch Before or After a Workout?
The truth is, it’s best when you stretch before and after a workout. Not only does it gradually prepare your body, it also helps you get in the right mindset. When you’re warming up, you’re ready. When you’re on a cooldown, you’re about to relax.
However, be aware of the timing of your stretch exercises.
For instance, static stretches are best for a cooldown. It keeps your muscles loose, improves your range of motion, and rolls out the stiffness from your stressed muscles. Due to its low intensity, static stretches can help you relax.
If you need an effective warm-up, you should get into dynamic stretches. While these can work for a cooldown routine, most people incorporate dynamic stretches for their warm-up instead. It wakes up your body without making you sweat too much.
In fact, a recent study showed that dynamic stretching during warm-up works better than static stretching. It improves your range of motion by 7-10% and optimizes your muscle performance.
Is It Good to Do Stretching After a Workout?
Does stretching after a workout reduce soreness, or does it make things worse? To see if it’s really worth it, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Benefits of Post Workout Stretches
- Post-workout stretches return your breathing and heart rate to normal.
- It prevents you from getting dizzy or lightheaded when you stop exercising.
- Stretching every day increases your flexibility and range of motion.
- It improves blood circulation throughout your body.
- Stretching gradually makes you more quick and agile.
- It reduces the swelling of your sore muscles.
- When you stretch every day, it reduces chronic pain such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Potential Cons of Stretching
- A cooldown can take an extra few minutes or so after your workout routine.
- Similar to other exercises, you don’t want to overdo stretching. Or else, you might be setting yourself up for a muscle injury.
Image alt text: Man with highlighted back pain sitting on gym bench
What Happens if I Don’t Stretch Before or After Working Out?
If you’re still on the fence about stretching exercises, here’s what can happen if you don’t do it at all.
- Your heart rate will suddenly spike up and down because you didn’t gradually do any warm-up or cool down.
- Your muscles might freeze up mid-workout and won’t move the way you want them to.
- You’re more susceptible to muscle pain and stiffness.
- If you’re forcing yourself to an intense workout, you might end up straining or tearing your muscles.
Should I Stretch After Working Out?
Short answer: yes, it doesn’t hurt to stretch and cool down after working out.
The long answer is, stretching reduces DOMS or delayed-onset muscle soreness, which often happens after exercise. It loosens up cramped muscles and allows you to recover. Stretching also reduces the risk of injury by around 5%.
However, you should also be wary of its flip side: stretching too much. While post-workout stretches contribute to your health, they might also backfire on your overworked muscles.
What Happens If I Stretch Too Much?
When you hold a stretch for too long that it gets painful, that’s a red flag. You shouldn’t stretch too much to the point that you pull a muscle on accident.
In this scenario, a muscle strain can happen. And if it’s left unnoticed, it might lead to further damage to your ligaments, tendons, or muscles. It might also limit the way you move, even after you’ve recovered from the pain.
How Do I Know If I Strained a Muscle?
When you’re stretching the right way for a short period, you’d feel a slight pull on your muscles. It shouldn’t be painful in any way. If it is, you should stop before you strain your muscles.
You’d know if you strained a muscle when:
- You feel sharp or stabbing pain in your muscles
- You see redness, bruising, or tenderness in the affected area.
- The affected area gets swollen or inflamed.
- You suddenly can’t move around without pain and discomfort.
- You experience muscle weakness or spasms.
A mild muscle strain can last within 3 to 6 weeks, and it can be treated at home. However, if it’s more severe, it might take several months, depending on if you need surgery and physical therapy.
How To Treat Muscle Strain?
Most cases of muscle strain can be treated at home. It might take a few weeks or more, but you can speed it up with these guaranteed treatment methods:
- Rest up and avoid intense physical activity.
- Ice it out to reduce pain and swelling.
- Compress and protect the affected area with a brace, bandage, or compression sleeve.
- Massage around the affected area gently with a massage gun. With consistent use, it can retrieve your range of motion after muscle injury.
What are Good Stretches After a Workout and to Recover From Muscle Strain?
After suffering from aching muscles, you need to recover your strength and bounce back.
Start with slow exercises at first and be patient with your progress. It’s also best to consult a physical therapist on how much exercise you can handle.
To help with your physical recovery, here’s a detailed video on 14 simple stretches you can do right now.
Complete Your Post-Workout Routine with The Hydragun
Getting fit is an entire journey, and it doesn’t help you in any way if you skip the important parts such as stretching and recovery.
While it’s not a strict requirement, stretching is a strong recommendation for a healthy lifestyle. It’s the universal truth that everyone follows. No matter if you’re a professional athlete or an occasional fitness enthusiast, you should gear up your recovery with post-workout stretches.
Speaking of gearing up, get a deep tissue massage gun, like the Hydragun.
It’s designed specifically to treat your muscles and speed up recovery. According to one customer, it has “freed up the lost flexibility” around their hips and helped them move better than before.
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