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Stretching & Recovery

Stretching & Recovery

The relationship between stretching, fitness, and recovery. Flexibility and mobility work should be part of your fitness routine.

Unlocking the Power of Stretching at Ekrin Athletics

Stretching has long been a part of the routines of athletes, bodybuilders, yogis, and the everyday fitness enthusiast. Despite its longstanding role in the fitness world, stretching has become the source of some confusion — and degradation. Research studies on stretching as it relates to physical fitness and athletic performance are conflicting. Some studies say stretching helps; others say it harms performance; still others say it does nothing at all. At Ekrin Athletics, we believe stretching has a beneficial place in the fitness routine of the everyday athlete.

What to know about stretching

What to know about stretching

Stretching is traditionally defined as “the application of force to musculotendinous structures in order to achieve a change in their length, usually for the purposes of improving joint range of motion (ROM), reducing stiffness or soreness, or preparing for activity.”

What that means in non-science speak is this: Stretching lengthens your muscles and prepares your body for movement.

All the confusion about stretching — Is it good? Is it bad? — stems from research findings back in the early 2000s that concluded static stretching (a la reach-and-hold) reduces muscle function when performed before exercise.

So everyone stopped stretching before track meets and football games in an attempt to avoid the apparent ill effects of pre-competition flexibility work.

The truth is, the benefits and drawbacks of stretching all depend on what type of stretching you do and when you do it. In short, static stretching is best performed after activity, while dynamic stretching and joint preparation exercises are best performed before activity.

How Stretching Affects Workout Recovery

How Stretching Affects Workout Recovery

Stretching does more than just make your muscles more flexible (although that’s important). Stretching also promotes efficient recovery from workouts by affecting various body systems and preventing pain and injury.

Stretching helps with breathing and nervous system relaxation

Stretching helps with breathing and nervous system relaxation

It might seem like your muscles take the brunt of your workouts, but your nervous system also gets taxed with every sweat session. Stretching after a workout provides gentle movement and provides an opportunity to focus on deep breathing, both of which help your nervous system return to a resting state.

Stretching promotes blood flow

Stretching promotes blood flow

Stretching, whether dynamically before a workout or statically after a workout, promotes blood flow to your muscles. This can reduce stiffness, making it easier to sink into the ranges of motion you need to achieve for a successful workout.

Stretching prevents injuries

Stretching prevents injuries

Muscles and joints tear when they’re abruptly pushed past the point at which they can rebound with no damage. The name “torn muscle” didn’t come from nowhere.

If you are participating in any activities that require you to quickly change direction, move heavy weights at fast speeds, or any perform any other powerful motion, you need to stretch on a regular basis. Achieving deep ranges of motion and rebounding from them without injury requires flexible muscles.

Every workout you complete without injury is one workout closer to your fitness goals.

Things to Consider

Things to Consider

There’s a difference between stretching to increase range of motion and stretching for recovery. Stretching for recovery should be painless, while stretching to actively increase ROM should bring you to the point of discomfort (but not pain). Both types of stretching have a place in your routine, but stretching for recovery should happen after workouts, ideally within 15 minutes.

Frequently asked questions

  • What’s the difference between stretching and mobility work?

    Stretching helps your muscles become more flexible, while mobility work helps your joints reach deeper ranges of motion. Both are important, and you can’t have full range of motion in the joints without flexibility in the muscles.

  • Does Stretching Really Help?

    It depends on what you mean by “help.” If the question is whether or not stretching actually reduces post-workout muscle soreness, probably not. Studies don’t show a strong correlation between post-workout stretching and avoidance or elimination of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

    However, if the question is whether stretching helps with overall workout recovery, the answer is yes. Stretching promotes circulation and relaxation of the central nervous system, both of which help your body wind down after a workout. Stretching also keeps your muscles supple, which means they’re less prone to injury.

  • Do You Have to Stretch After Every Workout?

    You don’t necessarily need to stretch after every workout, but it’s definitely a good idea to stretch after most workouts. Stretching immediately post-workout means you won’t forget to do it later (or convince yourself you don’t feel like it). Your muscles are also most responsive to stretching after workouts, since your body is already warm and loose.

Learn more about stretching and workout recovery

  • How to Heal Muscle Soreness for Runners

  • 5 Ways to Accelerate Post-Workout Recovery

  • 5 Ways to Relieve Tension at Your Desk

Keys to recovery

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