Nothing has been debated more often in the fitness world than the benefits of stretching! Researchers continue to discuss this and there is still limited (and conflicting) evidence to help confirm one way or another with some ‘experts’ suggesting that stretching doesn't prevent muscle soreness after exercise. However, with conflicting opinions suggesting the complete opposite, the safest approach currently is to stretch before and after training. At Get Fit Today, we start every session with some dynamic stretching and end the session with some static stretching.
Dynamic stretching is typically done before you start your workout, and involves active movements that help get your muscles warmed up and ready for exercise.
These movements are often similar to the type of activity you’ll be doing during your workout. For instance, a swimmer may move their arms in circles and a runner may jog in place before starting their run. Because our session involve so many different exercises, we tend to include a lot of different dynamic stretching and try to make this as fun as possible.
A high percentage of fitness injuries occur due to little or no warm up exercises being conducted prior to training. This is the main reason we will always start our sessions with a thorough warm up. At Get Fit Today, we will start every session with a thorough 8-10 minute progressive warm up using the RAMP method.
R – Raise the pulse, body and muscle temperature and blood flow.
A – Activate and engage the muscles in preparation for the upcoming session
M – Mobilise the joints and get the synovial fluids flowing
P – Potentiate or prepare the body for the planned exercises in the session ahead.
Static stretching, on the other hand, is done at the end of your workout, and involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time, without movement.
This allows your muscles to loosen up, while increasing flexibility and range of motion. These type of stretches are most effective at the end of a workout as your muscles are already warm from exercising and in a good condition to be stretched.
At the end of our sessions, we will spend 8-10 minutes doing some cool down stretches which are mainly static and aimed at improving flexibility and range of motion. This type of stretching can also help your muscles recover faster following a workout, leading to less pain and stiffness. It’s also a great way to reduce stress and tension and we recommend doing some static stretching every day.
Boosting the flexibility of your muscles can also enhance your agility, speed, and muscle strength. This may help you perform at a higher level when you work out or play a sport
To keep your stretches safe and effective, keep these tips in mind.
1. Don’t stretch beyond what’s comfortable. A slight degree of discomfort is normal, but you shouldn’t feel any pain while you’re stretching. Stop right away if you feel sharp pain.
2. Be gentle. Use smooth, slow movements. Avoid jerking or bouncing movements while you’re holding a stretch. Be extra cautious if you’re recovering from an injury.
3. Don’t forget to breathe. Breathing can help relieve stress and tension in your body, and may also help you hold a stretch for longer.
4. Start slowly. Start with just a few stretches at first, and add more repetitions and stretches as you build your flexibility.
The debate will no doubt continue for many years to come, but for now we recommend stretching before and after exercise and on rest days too. If you're ever unsure as to whether stretching is a good thing or not, just watch a cat or dog - you will notice them stretch almost every time they get up. If its good enough for animals and mother nature, it's good enough for us!