When most of us were children in PE class, we were taught a basic principle that seemed unassailable at the time: Stretching before physical activity is good. It warms up the muscles, increases circulation, and improves our range of motion so we can perform better. With that idea in mind, we would line up to touch our toes before heading off to an intense session of dodgeball or rope climbing.
But exercise science has come a long way since then. We’ve since learned that while stretching does, in fact, organize and align the muscle fibers, and this does have the effect of improving circulation and nutrient delivery, there’s more to an effective stretching routine that we once thought. Here are a few stretching-related workout tips that experts now recommend.
A Simple Guide to Effective Stretching: Workout Tips
- Static stretching, or stretching performed while standing or lying in place, may actually reduce our muscle strength and diminish our abilities for a full 30 minutes afterward. Experts are still trying to determine what causes this effect.
- Instead of static stretching, try stretches that happen while the body is in vigorous motion, since these moves tend to bring better results. Keep your knee straight and kick your left leg out in front of you as high as you can, then your right leg. Then crawl across the gym floor, staying as low to the ground as you can.
- Before you begin your dynamic stretching exercises, warm up with a light jog or ten minutes of mild aerobic activity. Your heart rate should be noticeably elevated before you begin the first stretch.
- Once you’ve warmed up, then done a few dynamic stretching moves, begin your activity right away. A pause or extended period of stillness can actually reduce the benefits of the stretch, and may not provide your muscles with adequate heat, circulation, or protection from injury.