With the new year just around the corner, many people are looking to get in shape for the first time or get back into the swing of things. Before you start hitting the gym or putting miles on your running shoes, it can be helpful to make sure that you're prepared to have a healthy and safe workout. One of the best things you can do to get ready for your upcoming workout is to do a few pre-workout stretches. If you've worked out in the past, you might be under the impression that you don't need to do any pre-workout stretches and should instead focus on a light warmup or avoiding any pre-workout activities altogether.
We're going to separate the truth from the myth and guide you on the importance of pre-workout stretches and highlight some key benefits that can be gained from stretching before your workout.
Once you decide to begin your fitness journey, you might feel lost in the sea of fitness and exercise advice. You want to work towards a healthier lifestyle, but you don't want to injure yourself in the process or make a fool of yourself in the meantime. Don't worry, we've all been there before.
There is a lot of competing information out there on what you should do to ensure that your workout is effective and safe, including the hotly contested debate on whether or not you should do pre-workout stretches or swap it out for some light exercises to begin your workout. Many individuals believe that pre-workout stretches aren't necessary because they aren't helping you burn any calories or produce measurable results in the moment. Instead, many of those same individuals believe that you should jump right into your workout by doing a light jog, performing a brisk walk, or doing some other light exercises to get the blood pumping.
While it's true that a light exercise might get your blood pumping to start your workout, stretching is important to help ensure that your body and muscles get ready for the upcoming exercise you're about to perform. The truth to the matter is that you should do both pre-workout stretches and some light activities to start your workout.
Think of stretching and warm-up activities like dipping your toes into the pool to get adjusted to the cold water. It's much easier to get acquainted with the water's temperature when you ease into it as opposed to jumping straight in.
In the same way that jumping into a cold pool without testing the waters, stretching your muscles while they're cold or taught might result in injury. That's why it's important to combine a light warm-up with a pre-workout stretch to reduce the risk of injury and ease your body into the rigorous physical exercise that you're about to engage in.
The key difference between stretching and warming up is that warming up before your workout allows you to get the blood flowing to your muscles and increase your core temperature while stretching helps you increase your range of motion and flexibility. Doing both will help to ensure that you're prepared for your workout.
You've undoubtedly heard it before in the past, whether you heard it in your P.E. class growing up or in one of the training sessions you took at your local gym, it's important to stretch before your workout. Even though you know it's important to stretch before you begin your strenuous workout, you might not know all of the great benefits that come from some of those pre-workout stretches.
We've highlighted some of the key benefits you can expect when you begin implementing some pre-workout stretches into your exercise routine.
Stretching has a wide array of benefits for both the mind and body, but many people forget that it can even have an effect on your posture. Stretching before your workout can help you improve your posture and make sure that you're not setting yourself up for failure or potential injury while you exercise.
A simple stretch here and there can help you align your body posture and strengthen your muscles at the same time. If you've been slacking when it comes to heading to the gym or have allowed poor posture habits to creep into your lifestyle, then it's no wonder that you might be slouching or suffering from poor posture.
Research has shown that stretching, when combined with strengthening exercises ¹, can help improve posture and reduce pain.
One of the biggest things that individuals need to watch out for when they're starting their exercise and fitness journey once again is to always be mindful when it comes to their range of motion. Individuals who haven't worked out in quite some time, are trying a new exercise routine, or are unfamiliar with some of the equipment they might be using could risk potential injury by trying to do too much too quickly.
As we've outlined earlier, stretching is a great way to get your body ready before beginning some of the strenuous exercises that will challenge your ability to handle certain exercises, motion, or strain. Using a similar analogy to the one above when it comes to easing into things, you wouldn't naturally wake up one day and think you're going to be able to complete a full marathon without having ever run before. Instead, you'd need to ease your way into it. The same thing can be said when you do a pre-workout stretch, which will naturally help prepare your body for different types of movements and ranges of motion that you will put it through.
The next benefit associated with pre-workout stretches is that they can help you relieve stress and tension. We've all been in those situations when we're not in the moment cause we're thinking about something else or we're distracted by our daily lives. Stretching gives individuals a moment to clear their thoughts, relieve stress that's been building up over time, and focus on the present.
It's important to relieve some of the stress that you're experiencing because chances are that when you're feeling stressed, you're also putting some tension and strain on your muscles without even realizing it. Some individuals think that stress or muscle tension can only be physical when in reality there are significant effects from both physical stress and mental/emotional stress. Whether you're dealing with emotional or physical stress, it can have a significant impact on how tense your muscles might be.
Performing a few easy and simple pre-workout stretches is a great way for you to decrease stress buildup and get both your mind and body ready for the upcoming physical activity.
When you relieve stress and tension throughout your body, albeit emotional or physical stress and tension, you're setting yourself up for success in your upcoming workout by improving your mood and raising your energy levels. We've all been in those scenarios when it feels like we're marching up a hill and we're not gaining any ground. Some days, working out can feel like that exact same scenario where we'd rather be doing anything else than putting our body through physical exercises to build muscle, reduce pain, or restore function.
It doesn't have to feel like that though, as pre-workout stretches can help to improve your mood and increase your energy levels by helping you focus your mind on the physical activities ahead. It's much easier to enjoy your workouts and get more from the physical activity you're doing when you can actually focus on it without having to worry about the stress and tension buildup that's occurring elsewhere in your life.
As you implement pre-workout stretches to relieve stress and tension, you'll find that your ability to focus improves, and your mood and energy naturally rises with it.
Pre-workout stretches can help you improve your flexibility gradually over time. If you haven't been exercising as routinely or engaging in regular physical activity, you might find that you struggle to perform daily tasks or have the same flexibility you did at an earlier time. This is completely natural, and many individuals suffer from decreased flexibility because they're not stretching routinely.
Pre-workout stretches are a great way to alleviate these concerns and help you gradually build up your flexibility and increased range of motion over time.
One of the coolest things about pre-workout stretches is that they can actually help you improve your blood flow and increase the oxygen levels for your muscles. Your muscles can't perform at their peak if they're starving for oxygen or can't get the nutrients they need.
Performing a few pre-workout stretches is a great way to open up some of the blood vessels to help you increase your ability to perform some of the more strenuous exercises by funneling more oxygen and nutrients to where they're needed most during your workout.
Pre-workout stretches can help reduce the risk of injury during physical activities. When you perform some pre-workout stretches, you increase your range of motion and limber up many of the muscles that you'll be using throughout your workout. After you've limbered up some of the muscles that you'll be using and you get the blood flow moving, you'll naturally prepare your body to be ready for some of the unique movements you'll be engaging during your workout.
Once your body is engaged and ready for the exercise movements, you'll find that many of the physical activities and movements you're performing will become easier, and over time this will help you reduce the exposure to potential injuries.
Now that you understand some of the key benefits that can be gained from pre-workout stretches, it's easy to see why it's important to implement pre-workout stretches into your exercise routine. All it takes is a few simple steps to do a light workout and implement a few pre-workout stretches to reduce the risk of injury, increase your athletic performance, increase your range of motion, and a host of other fantastic benefits.
At Results Physiotherapy, our goal is to help patients restore their function and reduce the pain they might be suffering from. We're passionate about educating patients and assisting them with getting back to their normal lives through personalized physical therapy services. Whether you're looking to visit one of our in-person clinics or utilize our new Virtual Therapy options, we're here to help you. If you're looking to get back into the swing of things, start working out for the first time, or looking to work toward alleviating some of the chronic pain you've been dealing with, consider Booking an Appointment Today!