3 Stretches to Shape Up Your Workout
You may have the best exercise gear, a membership to a top gym, and the time to put in the recommended 30-minute workout five times a week, but if you’re not stretching properly, it may all be for naught. “Stretching is very beneficial to everyone,” says Megan Bryson, BS, fitness specialist at the Virtua Center for HealthFitness in Washington Township. “It helps prevent injuries all while helping people perform better by improving range of motion and flexibility.” Whether you’re in top shape or trying to get there, you need to make sure to stretch those muscles.
Bryson explains that the best time to stretch is before and after a workout. “Stretching before a workout is more of a warm up, so you would want to do dynamic stretching,” she says. Dynamic stretching is done while moving, either in place or walking, and Bryson recommends trying moves such as high knees, butt kickers, and walking lunges. In dynamic stretching, aim for 10 to 15 repetitions for each stretch. “Doing a dynamic stretch before a workout allows your muscles to loosen up while getting your blood flowing.”
“After a workout you always want to make sure you cool down as well, this time with a static stretch,” says Bryson. “This is the most common form of stretching with things like reaching down to touch your toes, or holding a side lunge. This should be held in a way that is challenging, yet is comfortable to hold for 15 to 30 seconds.” Remember to go easy – if you start to feel a strain or “popping” feeling, ease off the stretch a little.
As opposed to dynamic or static stretching, active stretching is a type of static stretch that uses opposing muscles to help stretch the one you’re looking to get to, explains Bryson. “So basically if you want to stretch your calf, you sit on the floor with your legs straight and relaxed then pull your toes toward your shins and you will feel your calf stretch. With active stretching you control the stretch force with your own strength, compared to using a band or someone else to stretch you.”
By abiding by these rules of stretch, you can do right by your muscles.