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Stretching is a vital component of any workout routine. Stretching improves flexibility, mobility, and helps to prevent injuries and relieve soreness. But it can be confusing knowing what to stretch and when. Read on to find out more.
When you finish a hard training session, chances are you take a final sip from your water bottle, pick up your towel and training logbook, take a last look at yourself in the mirror while you strike a pose, and then hit the showers.


This sounds pretty normal, so what’s wrong with this?

Well, you missed out one massively important part of your workout – the post workout stretches.

It’s really easy to finish a tough workout, with the endorphins rushing through you, and a sense of elation that it’s another session in the books, and a step further towards your weight loss and fitness goals, and with that in mind, you figure that you’re done and dusted for the day. But not so fast.

While stretching might not be a high calorie burn activity like your gym session was, it’s still really important. Here’s why:

Stretching Makes You more Mobile

This is a biggie. If, like most people, you spend the majority of your day sitting down – either behind a desk, at a checkout, on the couch, or driving your car, you’re going to have some muscles that are really tight. Commonly tight muscles include the hip flexors, and pectoral, or chest muscles, as these are held in a shortened position when sitting. Likewise, most women who wear high heels on a regular basis have extremely tight calves. In order to make them more flexible, you need to stretch.

Stretching Prevents Injury

This is linked in to the above point. If you’ve got muscle that are tight, they’re far more prone to sprains and tears, due to their lack of elasticity and flexibility. Get stretching to avoid injury.

Stretching Makes You Stronger

More of an unusual one here, but again, it’s linked to the above two reasons for stretching. We’ll look at the squat as an example here. If you have tight calves, glutes and hamstrings, you’re going to struggle to squat to full depth, and have no “bounce” out of the bottom position. However, by improving your flexibility through stretching, you’ll be able to go lower, and make your hips “snap” out of the hole, enabling you to generate more force, and lift more weight. This also goes for lifts such as the bench press and deadlift.

Stretching Reduces Soreness

You know the feeling the day after a grueling session when you can barely move your legs or sit down on the toilet as your muscles are so tight? Bet you didn’t stretch! Stretching can improve your mobility in the days following a session, and increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscle cells, helping to speed up recovery.

Stretching is a Great Cooldown

When you finish training, your heart rate is high, and you’re still sweating lots. Stretching helps you to lower your heart rate gradually, and gives you time to reflect on your session – what went well, what could be improved on, and what you’re going to do next time you’re in the gym.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Stretching for Strengthening, Part 1”. by John paul Catanzaro. Accessed on May 22, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_repair/stretching_for_strengthening_part_i.jsessionid=E1EDCD109903AF56DA4EAE92BBF8ACC0-mcd02.hydra
  • Photo courtesy of dahlstroms on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dahlstroms/4882992828
  • Photo courtesy of robwallace on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/robwallace/738538837