Stretching: when, how and why?

Once is not customary today, we are going to talk about the subject of stretching. Any good sportsman or woman who respects himself or herself has necessarily gone through a few stretching sessions at one time or another without always really knowing why. In fact, we know that stretching is a good thing, but from there to really knowing the goal of this operation there is a small gap that many practitioners do not necessarily cross.

In this article, I will therefore spend some time talking to you about the interest of stretching, how to do it preferably, and most importantly, when it is interesting to stretch. Is it before or after training? I know that some of you are wondering the same thing.

So let’s not waste any time and let’s go for some reading on the subject, folks!

Post-workout stretching.
I decided to talk about this stretch first, simply because it is the most common one. By discovering a little bit about stretching, we tell ourselves first of all that the best time to relieve our muscles through this practice is right after a good session.

To be clear, I obviously agree with this absolute rule as long as you concentrate these stretching exercises on the muscle or muscles that have been under the most stress during the effort. In other words, to be effective, you must of course stretch the muscle or muscles you have worked on beforehand.

This precision seems rather simplistic as it is, yet I still see far too many people who content themselves with doing the most common stretches regardless of their session. You know the bent leg, the extended leg, or the wide spread, so to speak, but if you do this after you’ve finished your arms, what’s the point. A good post-workout stretch therefore requires targeting the part of the body that is under stress.

Then, there are several reasons why stretching after the workout is important. The idea is to relieve as much muscle tension as possible from your fibers with gentle, smooth movements while facilitating blood flow to the damaged area to allow a greater flow of nutrients. This last point is a significant asset to a good post-training recovery.

To a lesser extent, a good ten minutes of stretching just after your difficult session will help you to reduce a little bit the aches and pains even if they are inevitable after one or two hours of intense exercise. The fight against aches and pains is however the first point put forward by the supporters of stretching, whereas in my opinion, it is not the most telling after the other interests I mentioned above.

Pre-workout stretching.
Some of you may begin to be skeptical as you read the first few lines of this paragraph for the simple reason that they never stretch before they start their workouts. Well, from my point of view, this is a mistake!

Before every big workout at the gym, impose on yourself three or four sets of a light-load exercise that will target and pre-fatiguise the fibers I want to work. The idea is to oil my joints well and thus allow for a higher fiber load afterwards. It is at this precise moment that I also take the opportunity to stretch and lightly massage the muscles and tendons affected by the effort in order to prepare them for stress and the more violent stretches that may occur during the exercises.

The interest of this stretching passage before the serious things is to avoid the articular and tendinous pains that can occur when we start our movements until the body is very warm. It is a way to avoid silly injuries, which can be very disabling for your future progress.

Stretching during the session.
So yes I know, you’re starting to think that I spend more time stretching in the gym than lifting. To be frank, these last stretches are not the most common in my workouts, however I assume that they do their part to optimize your efforts.

Even though it is obviously all a question of details, what I try to do by stretching slightly from time to time between my series is to widen the distribution of the fibers and therefore the quantity of blood that can be brought in. I am not telling you that it is these stretches that will make you explode in volume, but little by little you can make the surface area of your muscle fibers in its zone a little larger and as you know, it is by piling up all these little details over the long term that you trace your path towards progression and therefore motivation.

In summary.
Stretching should be an integral part of your training routine. In addition to a logic of flexibility, there are also interests in recovery and the risk of injury or inflammation, especially tendon inflammation.

Although the most common cliché is that these stretches should only be done after your workout, I have tried to show you that there are many reasons why you might want to review your plans at this level by integrating these principles before, after and during your hard hours of training in the gym or elsewhere.