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Stretching- Important or not?

One of the most common questions I ask a new client is if they stretch before and/or after a workout.

The single most common answer I get is “not really.”  The truth is, I’m guilty too!  You might finish a run and let your runners high carry you out of the gym or complete a hypertrophy/strength training workout and realize you don’t have time to lay out on a mat.  We’ve all been there and while it might only feel like it takes you an extra day or so to shake off your soreness, the lack of attention to stretching out your muscle fibers has a longer lasting effect.

As you sleep the fascia (fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle) tightens.  This is the same thing that happens after you engage in a workout.  In both cases the fascia will loosen gently in every day activity but without active stretching or self-myofascial release (foam rolling) the fascia surrounding your muscle continues to tighten.  While it may not be everyone’s goal to touch their toes, there are potential dangers in ignoring tight muscles as you continue to be active.

The chances of injury when working with overly tightened muscles and fascia are increased versus the chances in those who regularly stretch before and after a workout.  It is much more likely to over extend a muscle that doesn’t normally reach a full range of motion.  A participant who can reach a free range of motion will notice better performance during physical activity.  In the long run, stretching your muscles and loosening your fascia will allow you to continue your workouts with postural efficiency along with efficient posture in your daily life.

Where is the best place to start with stretching and self-myofascial release?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine notes that self-myofascial release, or foam rolling, is the best place for most people in any level of fitness to start.  Whether you are working on general adaptation or stabilization, hypertrophy, or power training, beginning a workout with 5-10 minutes of foam rolling allows your muscles to release.  While foam rolling may not always be the best feeling if you are feeling particularly sore it is recommended that you roll slowly in the desired area; when you find a tender spot, you should then stop with the roller pressing into the area for 30 seconds to really allow the fascia to begin to release.  This same practice is recommended after a workout as well.

Foam rolling is the top suggested practice for loosening fascia because it does not affect the power in muscles before a hypertrophy/strength training workout in the way that static stretching does.  During static stretching it is recommended that you hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to allow the muscle fibers to slide past each other as they begin to release.  While this is a great practice to hold after a workout, dynamic stretching is a better option for those participating in strength training.  During dynamic stretching an athlete moves through a fuller range of motion in a shorter amount of time and repeats the stretch at least 10 times.  This practice allows the athlete to gain enough flexibility to move through their workout with loosened fascia and better posture than they might be able to without the stretch.

Allowing yourself 5-10 minutes of foam rolling and stretching is important if you are looking to stay active with postural efficiency and avoid injury.

If you have any questions on the type that is best for you, reach out to any of the fitness professionals at Adventure 212 or one of Stevens Point’s community fitness centers for some guidance.

Whatever your fitness goals may be, it is important to keep in mind that one important goal: longevity of your muscles, posture, and physicality.

Article Written By:  Celia Sweet, NASM-CPT – Adventure 212 Fitness |

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