Everything You Need to Start Your Own Stretching Routine
In This Article
Whether you’re walking for weight loss or pushing yourself with new HIIT exercises, your stretching routine is just as important as the workouts themselves. It helps you warm-up, cool down, and improve your overall fitness.
“Muscle strains and overuse injuries can often happen as a result of decreased flexibility,” says Openfit Live Trainer Gowrie Hayden. “When a muscle becomes shortened and inflexible, it cannot lengthen appropriately or generate adequate force. This weakened and inflexible state often leads to injury.”
So if you’re new to exercise, or want to feel better as you reach the next level, here’s some information and tips to help you develop a consistent stretching routine.
Types of Stretching
For all fitness levels, stretching helps increase mobility while decreasing exercise-related pain. There are three basic types of stretching.
Static stretching is the type that you’re probably most familiar with. It involves elongating a muscle and holding it in place to help relieve tension in your body, making it more pliable and less prone to pulls and strains. However, you should generally perform this type of stretching after exercise.
“Static stretching is a little more common in a ‘cool down’ after your workout is complete while the body is still warm and loose,” says Openfit Fitness Expert Amanda Lopez. “It can also help to prevent muscle soreness.”
A much more effective warm-up for exercise is dynamic stretching. According to Lopez, it consists of movements that almost mimic the exercises in the workout to follow. This type of stretching allows the joints to go through a full range of motion, so the body is fully primed and ready to work out.
“It helps the body actually warm-up instead of just staying in place and holding the stretch while the body is cold,” she says.
Here’s a mix of dynamic and static beginner stretches to help get you started.
Common to rehab and orthopedic settings, PNF stretching is considered one of the most effective stretching techniques for increasing range of motion. This type of stretching involves taking a muscle to the point of resistance, then contracting that muscle or a surrounding muscle for a deeper stretch. If you don’t have a partner, you can use a strap or a wall to perform PNF stretching.
Stretches for Specific Body Parts
Flexibility and range of motion aside, stretching just feels good. If you don’t have time to stretch your entire body, single out some of your hardest-working muscles by targeting one of these areas:
Stretching is essential for runners because it helps complement and counteract the act of running. In addition to maintaining flexibility, stretching can help runners avoid knee pain and plantar fasciitis.
“Your flexibility can greatly impact your running form and stride length,” says Hayden. “So to become a smoother, faster runner, you want to be sure to stretch before and after runs.”
It makes sense to stretch before/after a workout. But incorporating stretching into your nighttime routine could provide benefits, including:
“A nice, gentle stretch before bed is always a great way to decrease tension in both the body and the mind to help you sleep better,” says Hayden.
How to Maximize Your Stretches
If you want to target specific problem areas or stretch a little deeper, here’s what you can do to supplement your normal stretching routine.
Using a foam roller increases blood flow to the targeted area and can help increase your range of motion in as little as 5 to 10 seconds. These benefits can be enjoyed without impacting performance during your workout.
“Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release, which helps reduce tightness within the underlying muscles,” says Hayden. “Fascia is a specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all of the body’s compartments. So when your fascia is all knotted and tight, so too are your muscles. Your overall posture can be affected. You might experience restricted movement or even pain. Think of foam rolling like a trigger point massage. By working through the tension in the trigger point, you are creating relief for other areas of the body attached to it.”
Enjoy the benefits of foam rolling with Openfit Live. Whether you’re interested in stretching, strength, running/walking, HIIT, yoga, weight training, or kickboxing, Openfit Live allows you to schedule individual workouts with our professional trainers. It’s like having a personal trainer inside your smartphone. Start your free trial today!
If you have trouble feeling deeper into your stretches, stretching tools can help you safely challenge your range of motion. There are several tools that can help you stretch more effectively, including:
If you don’t have any of these nearby, sometimes all you need for the perfect stretch is a firm, horizontal surface. Here are seven stretches you can do using a wall.
Follow a stretching program
Reduce the effects of stress and tension on your body in just 5 to 15 minutes per day. Designed by Xtend Barre creator Andrea Rogers, XB Stretch offers a series of total-body stretches, paired with targeted moves to address your problem areas. It’s only available to Openfit members, so start your free trial today!
Mistakes to Avoid
To enjoy the benefits of stretching, you need to do it correctly. From doing the wrong type of stretch at the wrong time to over-stretching, you might be making some errors despite your best efforts. Here are eight stretching mistakes to avoid so you can get the most out of your experience.
- Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching: mechanisms and clinical implications pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17052131/
- Common Running Injuries: Evaluation and Management pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29671490/
- Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults: a randomised trial www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1836955312700681
- The effect of meditative movement on sleep quality: A systematic review www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079215001604?via%3Dihub
ROLLER‐MASSAGER APPLICATION TO THE HAMSTRINGS INCREASES SIT‐AND‐REACH RANGE OF MOTION WITHIN FIVE TO TEN SECONDS WITHOUT PERFORMANCE IMPAIRMENTS
- The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23588488/