Let’s face it. Most of us tend to ignore stretches, both pre and post-workout. As much as it looks okay to just jump straight into that exercise and get it over with, it’s not. Stretching before and after a workout routine goes a long way to ensure your muscle and joint safety. Now, what does static stretching mean?
Static stretching is a classic post-workout routine that is largely famed for its effectiveness in relaxing your muscles. Primarily, your muscles are extended and held in a single position for a while during these routines. The only question left is, “why is static stretching good as a post-workout routine?” Keep reading to find out.
What Is Static Stretching?
See, the beauty of static stretches is that we do them, even without noticing. When you wake up after a good nap or after a long car ride, you sprawl out and stretch. Feels good, right? Yeah, those are static stretches.
So how can we define static stretching? Simply put, this is when you hold your stretching position for 30-60 seconds. Essentially, static stretches elongate a specific muscle group while improving their flexibility and mobility.
Now there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the effectiveness and usefulness of static stretching. Some people may argue that static stretches can impede performance in the short term. This is despite there being no long-term effect on your overall performance.
While these kinds of arguments may have some justification, it is not always entirely accurate. There is still concrete research and evidence that show static stretches are just as beneficial as other forms of stretches (1). The only catch is, they are best suited as a post-workout cooldown routine.
Stretching of any kind, whether static or dynamic, is not meant for only athletes or gym-goers. You need to make a habit of stretching to protect the integrity of your muscles. So what are some of the benefits of static stretching exercises? We find out in the next section.
What Are The Benefits Of Static Stretching?
Here’s a list of some of the incredible benefits you’ll get from including static stretches in your post-workout routine.
Your muscles are already warmed up at the end of your workout. Stretching at this time helps increase your range of motion in any joint of your choice (4). Range of motion is just a fancy way of saying how far your joint can move in a specific direction.
This then creates a domino effect of ease of movement, and eventually, your daily tasks become easier to handle. So despite your age, strengthening your muscles will always be a good thing to do.
Reduced Pain And Stiffness
Sometimes your muscles will become tense or tight after a workout session. This can be attributed to the fact that they were most likely overworked, causing the pain. Studies have indicated that static stretching is effective in relieving stiffness in tight muscles (2).
Eventually, this reduces post-workout pains in your muscles and joints, making your everyday tasks simpler and easier.
Therapeutic Effects Of Decreased Stress
Stretching can be great for calming your mind. As a result, it significantly reduces your stress levels. You should take your time when stretching, don’t just rush through it. Use the time when stretching for relaxation and meditation, making it your “me time.”
You can also include good breathing techniques to get the full benefits of this. Inhale before going into the stretch, then exhale while going into the stretch. Afterward, maintain a stable breathing rate. Do this in your static stretching exercise and experience a calm and relaxed mind.
Static stretches can improve your muscle’s flexibility. Flexible muscles are more agile, are faster, and are stronger (4). These attributes ultimately improve your performance any time you work out or play a sport.
Increased Blood Flow, Minimizing Muscle Soreness
Soreness after an engaging workout is not uncommon. Most people experience this regularly. Stretching after working out can help in reducing muscle soreness after exercising. This is because it increases blood flow in your body (3).
A study done in 2018 showed that blood circulation is greatly enhanced in animals after stretching (3). Okay, so stretching improves blood circulation; that’s all nice and dandy. But how is that related to reduced muscle soreness?
Simple answer: Blood transports nutrients to your muscles that repair them, helping them grow stronger and larger. Therefore, better blood circulation equals faster muscle repair and shorter recovery periods (3). Cool, right?
Reduced Tension Headaches
Tension headaches can be a real nuisance. These are things you wouldn’t want at any time, especially after that intense workout session. When you add conscious breathing to your static stretches, it can help alleviate tension headaches.
Remember, the key is in slow, steady, and relaxing breathing patterns when stretching. This will calm you down, releasing the stress causing your headaches.
Static Stretches Can Help With Arthritic Pain
Too much inactivity can make your muscles tighten and lose their flexibility over time. This may result in tears and aches in your muscles and tissues surrounding the joints. Also, as you age, your joints can develop arthritis that causes pain and makes daily activities like walking difficult.
Static stretches help in relaxing and loosening your joints, which will ultimately make movement easier (2). If you’re having problems stretching, try using bands, towels, or equipment that will make the process easier and safer.
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Better And Improved Posture
“Stand up straight!” That’s an order most of us have received growing up, especially from our fathers. It may have sounded harsh and unnecessary at that time, but it was for a good reason. Did you know that posture is vital in keeping your body healthy?
Proper alignment goes a long way in supporting your muscular function. The logic is, when your joints and bones are aligned correctly, your muscles are easily activated. Also, the stress on your tendons and ligaments is decreased.
Static stretches will naturally help you better your posture. This is because it strengthens your muscles; therefore, standing up straight won’t be as tiring (1). Your muscles will be capable of supporting your bones effectively, and the bonus is, you’ll look more confident!
What Is The Difference Between Static And Dynamic Stretching?
Static vs dynamic stretching: Which of the two is better? Well, practically speaking, this is not a fair comparison between the two forms of stretches. Each is meant to be utilized at different points of your workout routine. This makes both of them just as valuable.
So what differentiates the two? Why is one form best suited as a pre-workout routine and the other a post-workout routine? Let’s find out.
Static stretching ideally involves holding one position without moving to stretch your muscles. Your muscles are usually relaxed and elongated during this period. However, you should never hold a static stretch for more than one minute as that may increase the risk of injury.
When you go past a minute, more stress is exerted on your tendons and ligaments, increasing the possibility of tears. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is a bit different. Your body is continuously engaged in active movements that are slow and controlled. This is what makes them an ideal pre-workout routine since your muscles are warmed up during the movements.
With that, you can tell when to do static stretching and when to do dynamic stretching. So it never should be a question of which variant is better. The question should be: At what point of your exercise can you get the full benefits of each exercise?
Below are some examples of static stretching exercises that will improve your post-workout routines.
Static Stretching Examples For Post-Workout
Try these static stretches in your next post-workout routine to work on each of your major muscle groups:
Overhead Triceps Stretch
- Standing with your feet hip-width apart, roll your shoulder back and down to ease any tension.
- Extend your right arm toward the ceiling and while bending your elbow to bring your right palm down. This movement should be towards the center of your back.
- Next, bring your left hand up. This should initiate a downward pull to your right elbow.
- Maintain this stretch for about 30 seconds and switch to the other arm. Do about 3 reps on each side before trying to go deeper.
Head-To-Knee Forward Bend
- Find a comfortable flat surface and sit on it.
- Extending your left leg in front of you, place your right foot’s sole inside your left thigh.
- Breathe in and lift your arms overhead.
- Lengthen your spine as you exhale, then bend forward your hips.
- Next, rest your hands on either your legs, foot, or floor.
- Stay in this position for a maximum of one minute.
- Repeat this procedure on the other side.
- Standing upright, put your arms behind your back, interlacing your hands at the base of your spine.
- Straighten your arms, then turn your hands, ensuring your palms face downward.
- Next, raise both arms as high as you can. Make sure you feel some stretch in your shoulders and biceps.
- Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat this 2 or 3 times.
- Lying on your stomach, place your hands directly under your shoulders with your fingers facing forward.
- While pressing into your hands and squeezing your elbows into your torso, lift your head, chest, and shoulders.
- Keeping your elbows slightly bent, let your head drop back. This deepens the pose.
- Maintain this position for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 1-2 times.
Seated Butterfly Stretch
- Sit on the floor while ensuring your back is straight and abs are engaged.
- Put the soles of your feet together in front of you. Next, allow your knees to bend out to the side.
- Place your hands on your feet, then pull your heels toward you. This action should allow your knees to relax as they move closer to the floor.
- Inhale and hold this position for about 30 seconds.
- Hold one ankle using your hand from the same side. Make sure your stomach muscles are tightened, thus preventing your back from arching.
- Bend your knee while extending your thigh backward.
- Next, bring your ankle up toward your butt. Your knee should always be aligned to your hip. It shouldn’t be angled either inward or outward to your body.
- This should trigger a stretch in front of your thigh.
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Posterior Capsule Stretch
- First, relax your shoulders and bring one of your arms across your body.
- Use your other arm to hold the outstretched one just above your elbow while gently pulling it toward your body.
- Repeat this on the other side.
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Begin by placing one knee down while the opposite foot is flat on the ground.
- While tucking your hips, gently squeeze the glutes of your front leg.
- Finally, gently push both hips forward without arching your back.
- Lie down with your chest on a flat surface.
- Make sure your elbow is above your shoulder line while placing one arm out toward the side.
- Use your other arm to push your chest off the floor gently. This should make you feel a stretch in your chest of the extended arm.
- Repeat this stretch on either side.
- Get into a sitting position and extend one leg while crossing the opposite leg over.
- Place the crossed leg on the outside of your extended leg.
- Pull your bent knee and thigh gently towards your chest.
- Repeat this stretch on both legs.
Stretching is an important part of any physical activity that you should never downplay. If you spend your day in a relatively sedentary position, you shouldn’t jump straight into exercises afterward. You will just expose yourself to unnecessary and avoidable muscle injuries.
Stretching should therefore be incorporated before and after your exercise for maximum safety. Static stretching will specifically increase your muscle flexibility and ultimately improve your stability. To get the best results, strive to stretch at least twice a week. It doesn’t matter whether it is static or dynamic; both are just as beneficial when done at the right time.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Acute effects of static stretching on muscle hardness of the medial gastrocnemius muscle belly in humans: an ultrasonic shear-wave elastography study (2014, pubmed.gov)
- Acute effects of static stretching on passive stiffness and postural balance in healthy, elderly men (2017, pubmed.gov)
- Daily muscle stretching enhances blood flow, endothelial function, capillarity, vascular volume and connectivity in aged skeletal muscle (2018, pubmed.gov)
- The Effectiveness of PNF Versus Static Stretching on Increasing Hip-Flexion Range of Motion (2018, pubmed.gov)