Men seem to be the most resistant to stretching. For some reason, being tight and pumped after a workout leaves guys feeling good, and not in the mood to cool down. Unfortunately, there is good research to show that there are benefits to stretching out after a workout. Especially for those guys who can’t squat to depth, or have a hard time shoulder pressing completely vertical.
The science behind stretching and why it is important has changed over the years. Rather than seeing it as a way of getting more flexible, which is not usually a priority among gym goers, stretching should be viewed as a part of your recovery.
Remember that exercise is just the tool, and the rest and recovery is when improvements and changes take place. Recovery is the most important part of working out. After your WOD, you have challenged and crushed every single muscle in your body. All that contraction leaves the muscle in a sort of paranoid state. It is tight, shortened, and the nerves are stimulated, ready to fire at any moment. This is fantastic for your health; challenging muscles to get stronger, tighter and more coordinated. On the other hand, walking out of the gym and going to sit in the car, or sit on your sofa just leaves the muscles to cool off in a shortened state.
There is a subtle difference in the recovery from these workouts compared to if you spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching. Stretching lengthens the muscle back to normal. The lengthening allows circulation to improve, helping the body systems to flush out toxins which build up during your workout. This helps manage soreness and stiffness in the hours and days after each workout.
Not every single muscle needs to be stretched. Focusing on the big muscles and big groups is best; hips, shoulders, chest and back. If you have issues with limited mobility in certain areas, pay attention to those muscles in particular.
The general population is tight in their hip flexors due to perpetual sitting! Glutes and lower back are also often problem areas. For men, tight pecs and lats can get so bad that it causes an inability to move freely with arms overhead. Any of these areas being too tight can lead to injury down the road as other muscles and joints compensate. Pick one or two good exercises for each area.
Post workout stretching should be a static stretch, held for about 30 seconds. That is the classic, “reach and hold still”. The sensation during the stretch should be slight to moderate. If you feel any degree of pain, you are likely pushing it too far. Over-stretching to the point of pain actually makes the muscle react by shortening even further.
Dynamic stretches with bouncing or rocking are also effective to some degree. However, we usually recommend using moving stretches to help warm up muscles. Save these for the warm up, as it gets the muscles firing.
Check out different ways of stretching to find out what you prefer and what is most effective and comfortable for you. Taking those 5 to 10 minutes for post-wod stretching can go a long way in the long run!
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