Understand the true benefits of stretching

First, let me begin by addressing the age-old question to stretch before or after a workout or both?  As a trainer I tend to lean on the cautious side and recommend that my clients have at least performed some type of cardiovascular warm up before stretching as not to put stress on cold muscles. Typically I would advise stretching after the workout is complete, but if you are experiencing unusual tightness a brief warm up before stretching is advised. In addition to increasing flexibility and range of motion, a focus on stretching following strength training allows the muscle fibers to realign which in turn assists in decreasing soreness and risk of injury. Stretching also helps improve circulation, thus removing waste from the muscles and moving nutrients to them to aid in recovery. Taking time to stretch the muscles of the back, chest and shoulders will also result in improved posture.

A recent study has shown that in comparison those who stretch regularly following their workout versus those who do not, the stretching group recognized significantly greater overall results than those who did not. It was found that the stretching group put microscopic tears in the muscles fibers (much like strength training) that allowed for better results upon recovery because the body had to repair and build the muscle tissue. Stretching is quite possibly the most neglected part of a workout, however taking a few minutes at the end of your workout to focus on flexibility will derive several important benefits to improve your overall fitness.

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