Relatively speaking I am fairly new to the fitness world qualifying as a PT only 3 years ago. One of the things I have noticed since I started working in gyms is that not many people stretch after working out. There are 9 components of fitness. Strength, Speed, Balance, Power, Endurance, Co-ordination, Agility, Skill & Flexibility. Each component works with the other to create the whole. Take my chosen hobby kung fu for example, what good is having a strong punch or kick when you don’t have the speed to hit anything. What good is being lighting fast if you have no balance and fall over all the time...... You get the point. They all depend on each other. It’s no good being super strong if you can’t put your socks on in the morning because you can’t reach your feet! By the way a recent national survey found that 53% of people in the UK can’t touch their toes!
Lack of flexibility can result in circulatory problems and arthritis, as well as a shortening of the muscles and ligaments that could lead to injury and mobility problems. Tight and stiff muscles limit the normal range of movement. This can also cause a dramatic loss of strength and power. In some cases may even restrict blood circulation. This will result in muscle fatigue and will impede muscle repair. All of this increases the risk of injury.
That’s the bad news out of the way.
The good news is that regular stretching.
Improves the range of movement. The more flexible and pliable a muscle is the further it can stretch before a strain or injury can occur to it.
Increases power. By increasing the muscle length through stretching you are increasing the distance over which the muscle is able to contract, resulting in a potential increase in muscle power.
Reduces muscle soreness after exercise. The soreness is a result of micro tears within the muscle fibers, blood pooling and accumulated waste products such as lactic acid. Stretching as part of a cool-down helps to alleviate soreness by lengthening the individual muscle fibers, increasing blood circulation and removing waste products.
Muscle fatigue reduction. For every muscle in the body there is an opposite or opposing muscle. If the opposing muscles are flexible the working muscles do not have to exert as much force against them. Therefore movement takes less effort.
Other benefits include improved posture, better body awareness, improved coordination, better circulation, more energy, stress relief and my personal favourite improved sleep.
So for the sake adding 5 or 10 minutes to your workout please don’t skip this much over looked component of fitness. Your body will thank you for it in years to come.