Why Is Stretching Important? Forget to and You Will See!
What are the easiest parts of a workout to forget…or dare I say, skip? Which parts are the most convenient to brush over or breeze through?
- The Warm-up?
- The Main training/ exercise?
- The Cooldown?
If you said the warm-up and the cooldown, you are absolutely right!
Although these two parts of a workout contain possibly the most esssential element of the workout- stretching- they are the parts that are disregarded.
I mean, it’s understandable, right? Stretching is a pain (and could be painful). It is uncomfortable and it takes time…too much time. Before a workout, I am excited to get into the workout and after a workout, I am too tired. So it makes complete sense to skip the stretching.
However, as guilty as I am of neglecting to stretch sometimes, I understand that if I forget to stretch, it is then I will see why it is important.
BUT! Before we get into the functions and benefits of stretching, let us look at the the parts of the body that are most involved in stretching and the parts that stretching actually benefits!
Spoiler alert…it’s another biology lesson!
We all know that the body is made up of many systems- the circulatory system, the digestive system and even the respiratory system. But the system that is central to stretching is the musculo-skeletal system. You may be able to tell by the name that it is comprised of two things – bones or the skeleton and muscles.
These have two incredibly important functions. The bones of your body provide posture and structural support and the muscles provide your body with the ability to move through contraction and release.
In order for bones to do their job they must be joined together and the point where two bones connect is called a joint. Joints have various components but the most necessary for movement are ligaments, muscles and tendons. Bones are joined to bones by ligaments and muscles are connected to bones by tendons. To move joints or cause movement, muscles pull on the tendons.
Now that you are equipped with the general knowledge, here are the basic reasons why stretching is important – improves flexibility, prevents injury and enhances performance. We’ll look into them further below.
Flexibility refers to the body’s ability to move joints easily and through their full range of movement. It also involves the muscles around the joints and its lengthening to facilitate this wide range of movement.
Stretching basically helps to lengthen the muscles that allow movement of the joints. This is because stretching stretches the muscles and tendons. When these muscles and tendons are stretched, you are able to perform movements that are within your range of flexibility.
For example, the reason you are able to stretch out your arm to get the milk at the top of the cupboard is because the range of flexibility in your arms facilitates this. The same goes if you extend your leg at the knee joint to take a step.
If your range of flexibility does not facilitate these movements, this can cause injury and this takes us to our second point.
Continuing from point one. It’s all a progression.
While there are many factors that contribute to injury, it is highly understood that stretching is one of the factors that can help to prevent injury. And this is due to the fact that muscles pull on tendons to move bones and generally, cause movement. And when it pulls on the tendon, the muscle is stretched. Injury occurs when a muscle is overstretched or torn due to improper use.
To prevent this, proper stretching must be done so that the muscle can stretch withing the range that you would like it to to facilitate movement. If not, ouch!
The funny thing is that the role of stretching in preventing injury can be ironic. Ironic in the sense that stretching can also cause injury. However, this can be prevented. Injury that comes with stretching can be as a result of improper stretching. And quite simply, to prevent injury, stretching should be done BUT proper stretching.
Prepares You for the Workout
Actually, this is the warm-up as a whole as it “warms up” the body and starts the blood flow to the parts of your body where it is needed. However, stretching ensures that you are capable to complete the exercises and movements within the workout activity with ease and without injury. It ensures that you are flexible enough and are able to move as directed in and for the workout.
In fact, you would find that many exercise programmes, in their warm-ups, engage in stretches that are tailored to the exercises that you would do within your workout. If the workout has a great emphasis on the arms, the arms would be stretched. If there is a great emphasis on the legs, the legs would be stretched. And if it is a whole body programme, the whole body would be stretched.
Stretching, as it suits the needs of the programme, not only prepares you for the workout but as it incorporates all the benefits of stretching itself, improves flexibility, prevents injury and enhances performance, all as it relates to your workout.
There are other benefits of stretching that we would not go too much into but are extremely important. Here they are!
- Improves physical fitness and performance
- Improves ability to perform new and complicated movements/ skills
- Reduces the probability of muscular soreness
- Enhances the awareness of your body and capabilities
So I hope you enjoyed this post and it provided a great deal of value for you! Tell me of any other benefits of stretching that you know or I may have left out!