Stretching after a workout can help kickstart the recovery process and loosen up your joints and muscles. So how should you do it?
When you finish a hard interval-cardio workout, trainers typically recommend performing a cooldown—a few minutes spent working at an easy pace that allows your heart rate to slowly return to its normal level. After a lifting session, however, most guys just walk right out of the gym (eager to show off their pump, while it lasts).
However, there is a proper way to finish up a strength-training session that both initiates the recovery process and helps improve future performance. You can call it a cooldown, but sports performance coach uses the term decompression, which better describes the intention. “The muscles get tight from the concentric action of lifting,” says coach tess. That is, the repeated shortening of the muscles on the upward phase of reps leaves the tissues in a tense state. “Decompression exercises help the muscles return to resting lengths,” he says.
Imagine what a workout of deadlifts or shrugs does. If you leave the gym immediately after training them, and go sit at a desk for the rest of the day, you’re just reinforcing tightness in your neck, traps, and shoulders that can lead to injury over time. By taking a few minutes to unwind the muscles, you’ll promote blood flow, increase hydration of the fascia that surrounds them, further increase mobility, and spur the nervous system’s parasympathetic response—the relaxed, “rest and digest” state that induces recovery.
When you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is.
Your body is likely to feel better overall once you work on lengthening and opening your muscles. When your muscles are looser and less tense, you’ll experience fewer aches and pains. Plus, you may be less likely to experience muscle cramps.
Improved posture and balance
When you focus on increasing muscular flexibility your posture is likely to improve. Working out your body allows you to have proper alignment and correct any imbalances. Plus, with an increased range of motion you may find it easier to sit or stand in certain ways. Yoga has been shown to improve balance.
Once you develop strength and flexibility in your body you’ll be able to withstand more physical stress. Plus, you’ll rid your body of any muscle imbalances, which will reduce your chance of getting injured during physical activity. Correcting muscle imbalances requires a combination of strengthening the underactive muscles and stretching the overactive (tight) ones.
How should you stretch?
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