Stretching arouses all passions ! Some sports pros say it should be done before the sport, others that it is better to do it after. And recently, physiotherapists say that it is useless at all …
So, I thought it would be good to put some order in all this and guide you on the best practices!
When to stretch for sport?
The question has been debated for millennia:
When to stretch when exercising?
What we now know is that stretching before, after, or before AND after sport has no significant effect on sports performance or on reducing injuries. Source.
Stretching (gentle and short) performed before a warm-up followed by a sports session slightly increase the comfort and range of motion of the joints, so why not. Source
So it’s as you really want.
On the other hand, stretching before doing your sport, without doing a real warm-up with adapted movements is a bit of a shame. So ok for a little stretching if it makes you feel good, but don’t neglect a real warm-up of the joints before your sport.
In fact :
We therefore reserve the warm-up phase for movement! Same reasoning for running: we move!
To gain flexibility
If you want more flexibility, you have to stretch thoroughlylong, staying 1-2 minutes on a stretch, and that must hurt enough if you want to see any progress.
Intense and painful stretching should therefore be reserved for people
If you finally want to do your splits, or pass your leg behind your head: you have to work on stretching… And it will hurt!!
To increase its flexibility, it is necessary to exceed the pain threshold of 110% – 120%. (And you’ll have body aches the next day!)
But in this case: do not do this stretching of flexibility after your cardio sport or reinforcement.
Because you will send 2 contrary messages to your muscles. A standard message “build yourself stronger and more enduring” and a standard message “build yourself more flexible”. These two messages mix and the muscles do not rebuild very well, with more aches as a result.
Wait at least 2 days after your workout or cardio session, especially if you have body aches and your session was intense.
Stretching after sports is not necessary.
The muscles have been well contracted, so you can stretch them a little bit at the end to “restore them to their initial state”, bring down your heartbeat.
But beware, these stretches should be short and not for the purpose of gaining flexibility : the best is to do small stretches of 10 to 20 seconds per area. But it doesn’t really help to improve recovery.
Therefore: to the question ” should you stretch after exercise? is rather no!
If it is true that stretching after sport can “do good”, I advise against it after a workout that you would have found particularly difficult.
Better to recover gently: walk, do meditation for example if you need to calm your heart rate, and wait one, two or even three days for the muscles to recover before doing a full stretching session which will really benefit them.
For his cardio session (running, swimming, etc.)
Remember: the goal is to warm up the muscles before exercise, and to provide some lubrication to stiff joints.
Nothing prevents you from practicing some dynamic stretching before leavingwhich will have the advantage of warming up your body while stretching your muscles.
Scientific meta analyzes (summary of several study results) explain each time that stretching before a run does not reduce the risk of injury. But it can participate in the warm-up and facilitate the range of motion for the session.
However, you can make small stretching exercises after your run or cardio sport, but they must be short and fast!
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For his muscle strengthening session
Here again, it is necessary to focus on warming up the body rather than stretching the muscles. Thus, as for a cardio sport, I advise you to favor dynamic stretching.
For example, you can do some “yoga” sun salutations to stretch a little without forcing, and then move on to no-load squats, no-load lunges, light-loaded bench presses, etc.
Static stretching that is too long has no major effect on your muscle building session… We therefore focus on the warm-up!
Stretching directly after your intense muscle building session can be counterproductive.
We will indeed feel a temporary relief, however there is a risk of aggravating the damage suffered by the muscle fibers, of inhibiting their healing (muscle catabolism) and therefore of increasing the recovery time.
When to stretch outside of sport?
If you want to stretch, or feel the need to, you can do it pretty much whenever you want.
The most opportune times for this type of “break” in the day remains however:
Stretching requires a minimum of concentration, on the movement itself and on your breathing. It is therefore recommended to stretching when you are calmand where you know you won’t be disturbed.
Small stretching sessions can help you relax and relieve your body of the various tensions it accumulates every day.
Stretching in the morning to promote blood circulation
The morning stretches release tension before starting a new day. They help keep the body aligned and promote deep breathing. The perfect combo to wake you up in great shape!
That’s not all, doing a stretching session in the morning stimulates blood circulation and restores energy to the body, in an effective and gentle way.
If you are a stressed person, or are currently going through a stressful phase, stretching will help reduce that stress.
Do you feel that your stress persists? Why not try a sport to stretch? Yoga, for example, could do you good by focusing on both the body and a certain philosophy of life.
If you feel better, do some stretching every day. It can also relieve you if you often suffer from back pain when you wake up.
Let yourself be tempted by yoga!
Stretching, concentration, breathing and meditation, Yoga is one of the best gentle exercises to reduce stress and take care of your body.
Stretching in the evening to relax
The Gentle evening stretches also have their benefits. For example, they make it easier to fall asleep. and get better quality sleep. The body releases the tensions accumulated during the day and the skeleton finds a correct position.
You know, during the day, our body tends to settle down. It is the discs located between each vertebra that are packed together. Stretching allows you to reposition these discs.
Stretches for the back
Stretching your back will relieve your entire back: lower back, upper back and middle back. The movements performed will help you regain some mobility when your back is stiff or blocked or when you have lower back pain or sciatica.
More generally, you can stretch for your back if:
Know that if you have back pain, it is always possible to practice a gentle sport to take care of your spine ☺.
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