How much should I stretch?
Stretching, flexibility, mobility, etc are one and the same, yet a very overlooked area of most fitness programs.
One of the main causes of injury is a lack of flexibility – particularly in the hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps, hip flexors, pec major and minor, anterior deltoids, etc.
So a big reason to start stretching today is injury prevention! Plus it just feels good.
Many clients we work with at our Calgary Bootcamp are sedentary prior to starting a fitness program, and are employed in jobs that involve long hours at a desk or in a seated position which shortens the pec muscles, anterior deltoids, and hip flexors. Combine a lack of flexibility with a sedentary lifestyle, and you will inevitably create not only increased chances of injury but also muscle imbalances, another cause of injury.
So where does stretching, mobility, and flexibility fit into this picture? One of the best and simplest ways to prevent injury is to stretch, especially in the areas I mentioned above! The majority of injuries happen because a muscle is pushed beyond its range of motion. A lack of flexibility means you will have a small range of motion to work with, and a good chance you can push beyond this when eagerly beginning your fitness program.
For the average person looking for enhanced health and fitness, stretching for a minimum of a ½ hour for every hour of physical activity is recommended. Ideally, matching 1 hour of stretching for every hour of physical activity (no matter if its strength training, cardio, etc) will go a long way towards preventing injuries. However, this may not be the most practical for some of you, so start with ½ hour of stretching for each hour of activity. Starting is simple. All you need to do is stretch each muscle group for 2-3 sets, and 30 seconds per stretch. Start by focusing on the big ones like the pecs, shoulders, quadriceps, glutes, hip flexors, lower back, and hamstrings. This is a good old basic static stretching, just like we do at the end of class in our Calgary Bootcamp. This is something you can easily do while winding down for the evening, and watching your favourite movie or TV show.
Another option is to do a yoga class 2-3x/week. The benefit to yoga is that it is an efficient activity. Not only are you working on your flexibility, but you are also working on posture, core strength, balance and muscular strength and endurance in some cases.
At the end of the day, choose the option that works best for you and your lifestyle.
But remember to always complement working out with stretching. Your body will thank you and you will greatly reduce the likelihood of injury in the long term.
Always here to inspire and motivate you, David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team.