Common Fitness Problems: "How Important Is Stretching, Really?”
Muscles can’t function properly if they’re not properly cared for.
If you’re a regularly active guy, you might be used to jumping into a workout without loosening up. But limbering up before and stretching out after physical activity is a sure way to keep your body operating at peak performance.
If you find yourself working in front of a computer screen most days, this is even more essential. This wreaks havoc on your body by tightening your hip flexors and physically contracting and shortening the muscles in your back and shoulders. But if you start to incorporate a few vital stretches into your daily routine, not only will you feel the difference but you'll begin to notice positive changes in your body.
According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching has been found to enhance athletic ability, decrease stress levels and improve blood flow and circulation. By minimizing wear and tear on your joints, you'll improve your muscular function, reducing risk of injury.
Dan Oberneder, a physical therapist with tours of duty on the PGA and Champions Tours, says a lot of men wake up with stiff or sore muscles, depending on their level of activity (or inactivity) from the previous day. "Stretching increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the muscles, releases tension and improves flexibility,” he says. “Which definitely sets the stage for a successful physical day."
Before a workout, you want dynamic stretching—active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. These stretches will warm up your body and wake up muscle groups before you put them to work. Examples include plank walkouts, front swings and lunge torso twists. After your workout, cool down with some static stretches - the typical “stretch and hold” movements you think of when you imagine stretching. Moves like the pigeon stretch, lat stretch and double-knee to chest.
If you're tired of waking up sore after a day of heavy activity, or simply feel tight and sluggish on the days you don’t train, it's time to start stretching. After all, it’s free, feels great and is all but guaranteed to boost your athletic ability.
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The Stretch Zone is a national chain of studios that offer practitioner-assisted stretching to help increase your flexibility and range of motion while relieving tense muscles, stiffness and knots.