Stretching before a workout allows the body to become more pliable and less prone to injury:
The muscles that should be stretched will be the main muscles groups that are going to be worked on during the session.So for example, if you are doing a lower body workout, the hamstrings, the quadriceps, the glutes and the calf are the muscles that would need to be stretched. These stretches should be performed whilst standing and gently held between 8-10 seconds. This is so that your heart rate does not drop too much during this time.
However, this practice is now being questioned. Some say that a warm up is sufficient and would rather leave the stretches until the end of their session.
Post stretches or maintenance stretches are just as or if not more important than stretching prior to your workout, after your warm up. The main muscles groups used during the session are the ones that need to stretch.
If a muscle group has been continually contracted in the main workout, stretches should be performed to get the muscle back to their normal length. They may also help to alleviate potential soreness.
A maintenance stretch is usually held for between 10-15 seconds.
Stretching helps to:
• reduce muscle tension, and make the body feel more relaxed
• increase the range of motion
• prevent muscle strains: a strong pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong unstretched muscle
• prevent joint strains
• reduce the risk of back problems
• prepare the body for strenuous exercise
• increase ‘body awareness’
• promote circulation
• for females, reduces the severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea)
• increase the learning, practice, and performance of many types of skilled movements
• reduce muscular soreness
You should not stretch if:
• there has been a recent bone fracture, sprain or strain
• the range of motion is in some way limited
• the joint is inflamed or infected
• if you have signs of osteoporosis
• you experience pain when the joint is moved or the muscle is stretched
• you are suffering from certain diseases of the skin or blood