Stretching, more technically referred to as flexibility training is an important, yet overlooked component, of workouts.
Major benefits of incorporating stretching into your workout include:
- Increase your range of motion
- Decreases injury
- Improve circulation
- Reducing muscle soreness.
- Reduce stress
- Enhance athletic performance
- Improve balance
You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or athletes. But we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence. "A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily," says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage, according to Harvard Health Letter: The Importance of Stretching.
Pre-workout should focus on dynamic stretching to warm up and stimulate your muscles preparing them for the upcoming activity. Runners should focus on butt kicks, hip circles or walking lunges while soccer players may focus on leg and hip swings. Essentially you’re repetitively moving the muscles you’ll be using within your range of motion to prepare them to engage in strenuous activity.
Conversely, post workout-out you should focus on a cool down to decrease stimulation and enhance relaxation focusing on muscle groups that feel tight or overused. This is when the foam rollers and massage balls are perfect. Stretches like seated groin stretches, toe touches, or back stretches are great for recovery.
Don’t get over zealous though, no stretch should be done too quickly or too aggressively, that can turn something very good into something very bad. Proceed with caution and know your limits.
Modify, adapt, and adjust the stretch to suit your particular needs. Use padding under your knees for example, or try the same stretch sitting down, lying down, or standing up if it’s more comfortable for you, via Shape magazine.
Ready to get started?
We compiled a list of top flexibility tools to explore adding to your workout arsenal. Use the list of solutions below to find the stretching routine that works best for you.
The foam roller.
Think of it as a discounted deep tissue massage. Self-myofascial release, or self massage, allows you to release muscle tightness by applying pressure to specific regions of the body.
Whether post workout, or after a long day at the office foam rolling releases the knots created in the back, legs, glutes and more. By breaking up the muscle adhesions proper blood flow and function can reconvene. Additionally, foam rollers are ideal for warming up muscles before a workout, to increase overall circulation.
- The GRID Foam Roller
The GRID Foam Roller is designed to increase mobility and release muscle discomfort on specific muscle areas. The GRID designed to be used as a self-massage, to roll through tight muscles, knots and kinks that prevent feeling good and moving well.
- The Hyperice Vyper 2.0
The Hyperice Vyper 2.0 is powerful vibrating fitness roller that incorporates vibration technology. Benefits of the vyper include the combination of compression (pressure) and vibration to improve the body's overall performance, enhance recovery, and improve your overall well-being. Relieve sore or tight muscles, back pain, and increase flexibility with Hyperice VYPER with before workouts or after workouts for a faster recovery.
Looking for stretching solutions for compact or small home gyms? Or want a tool that is portable and can easily travel? A massage ball is a great ‘on the go’ solution that can help you release pressure on nearly any part of the body, even the tough to reach areas like your neck or shoulder blades.
- Trigger Point Massage Ball
The Trigger Point Massage Ball’s primary focus is to help you manage minor aches and muscle pains by applying pressure to general areas. It works great for the neck, shoulders, back, chest, piriformis, calves, or anywhere that you have minor aches and pains.
- Hyperice Hypersphere
The Hypersphere combines high intensity vibration with pressure to improve performance, enhance recovery, flexibility, range of motion, and prevent injury.
Using the hypersphere is easy. First, select a vibration speed (1-3) depending on your personal comfort level. Then, apply pressure with your lower or upper back, foot, calf, quadricep, hamstring/glutes, and shoulders. That’s it! The Hypersphere is a great tool to incorporate localized soft tissue therapy into your pre and post workout routines.
Fitness mats are a versatile fitness tool that can be used anywhere, and fit in any home gym space.
If your flexibility training has gone grown from just an activity performed before and after workouts, to a workout in itself (like Yoga, Pilates, or circuit training) you’ll need a quality fitness mat. The best exercise mat for you will depend on what you intend to use it for. So, the best way to select the right fitness mat is to start by determining what activities you plan to use it for.
For example, yoga exercise mats are designed to be thin enough you can roll them up and carry them around easily, tacky enough that your hands and feet won't slip, and long enough to fit the length of your body while you're doing a variety of exercises.
While, general exercise mats are used for a wide range of purpose like cardio exercises, stretching, crunches, push ups, lunges, and other exercises that require you to be on your belly, back, hands and knees, according to The Best Exercise mats by Livestrong.
- Aeromat Fitness Mat
The Aeromat Fitness Mat is good for anyone needing cushioning and stability. Plus, the Aeromat Blue Mat is ideal for home use to perform your favorite Pilates, yoga and other moves from home, practice strength training, relaxation and stretching exercises on your mat, and make the floor more comfortable for floor exercises
Researchers say as little as 15 minutes a day on a vibration trainer improves flexibility, enhances blood flow and reduces muscle soreness. Incorporating stretching exercises while standing on a vibration trainer maximizes your efforts. Additionally, vibration training can accelerate your training by magnifying the results.
For example, the Power Plate’s surface vibrates 25 to 50 times per second, resulting in a natural response that works your muscles harder while doing the same exercises.
Many people lead inactive lifestyles these days, traveling regularly by car and spending their working days seated at a computer workstation. This can result in decreased circulation and related complaints or even disorders. By providing short massage intervention with the Power Plate, local circulation can be improved, reducing the risk of dysfunction and pain, and improving skin quality and tone, according to the Power Plate website.
- Powerplate MY5.
The Power Plate my5 is ideal for home use. Its three frequency options allows for customization, while the larger plate surface gives you more room to move. Additional features, include pre-programmed quick start buttons and a remote control operating all exercise positions to promotes full-body fitness.
Power Plate technology vibrates up and down, side-to-side, and front-to-back, destabilizing the body and promoting the reflexive engagement of soft tissue. Involuntary muscle activity promotes quick, reflexive responses in muscle fibers and an increase in circulation. That means development in whole–body balance, mobility and stability, strength and motor control (muscle memory), in a shorter time frame than with traditional methods.
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