Remember your PE classes at school, where your sports teacher told you all to stretch after a session?
Let’s be honest – you often pretended, didn’t you?
And yet, it’s an essential part of any exercise routine!
Now that you are older, you understand the importance of stretching exercises after workout routines or any sort of athletic performance – whether you are a beginner or a professional.
Whether after an aerobic exercise, a Pilates session or a spot on the treadmill, whether you are exercising to lose weight or get fit: stretching is paramount!
But careful: to avoid injuring yourself, you need to know how to stretch correctly, for how long and with what intensity!
In this article, come and discover the advantages of having a personal trainer to prepare your fitness program, exercises and stretching routines. Having a personal coach will help keep you from injuries, even when stretching.
First of all, what is stretching?
The Oxford dictionary defines “stretch (v.)” as “straighten or extend one’s body or a part of one’s body to its full length, typically so as to tighten one’s muscles or in order to reach something.”
During physical activities, our muscles are tensed and need to relax afterwards.
Stretches are meant to:
There are various ways personal trainers can help you learn how to stretch – there are different types of stretching for each muscle group.
For example, you could go for stretching sessions at your local studio. This method combines soft gymnastics, passive stretching and yoga moves. Its aim is to relieve stiffness in the different muscle groups, for example in your lower body or thigh, increase the blood flow and provide relaxation for tense muscles and ligaments.
The benefits of stretching extend to all your muscles, whether glutes, quads or abs.
It’s important to know how and when to stretch properly so as to avoid injury to your muscles. Photo on Visualhunt.com
There are different stretching techniques you can learn with the help of a fitness professional either in a gym or in the comfort of your home:
Let’s take a moment to appreciate all the benefits of stretching correctly:
Stretching after a sports session allows your muscles to relax and prevents soreness the next day.
But at what point in the workout should you stretch?
After a dynamic warm-up and a good training session, a stretching exercise is needed to loosen your muscles so they can recuperate afterwards and improve your general physical condition.
Any athlete, runner or practitioner of strength training knows how to reduce tension and be more relaxed outside of practice and competitions: stretch.
However, it is best to wait about fifteen minutes after a physical effort so your body can cool down a bit. Your trainer will show you various dynamic and passive stretches – from having you bend forward to touch your toes to stretches for the groin or lower back.
Also, numerous studies have shown that it’s best not to stretch too much before doing sports, whether you are practising inside the comfort of your home or at a local club.
You can do warm-ups with your personal trainer, but don’t lengthen your muscles too much – you can injure them with strenuous stretches.
Whether they are simple or complicated, your trainer should always explain just what a particular stretch accomplishes.
Firstly, your personal trainer will need to show you the most common warm-ups and poses for the beginning of your coaching sessions.
Repeat the flexibility exercise several times; your coach will be at your side to make sure you have the correct posture and that the right muscles are being warmed up and stretched.
In fact, some types of stretches will not activate the right muscles if they are not done correctly. Your personal trainer will need to be very aware of your movements to make sure you are not injured.
During your training sessions, stretching should be taken as seriously as the cardio exercises, weights or jogging training you are there to do.
Here is a list of stretches for specific body parts:
This exercise stretches the knees and relaxes the muscles in your legs. Photo on VisualHunt.com
Stretching with a sports trainer or sports therapist is a good idea. He or she will be there to assure injury prevention and make sure you stay pain-free.
One thing is sure: you should never stretch before warming up! It serves no physiological purpose.
The benefits of stretching can’t be felt unless the muscles are warmed up first. Warming up makes it easy to relieve muscle tightness while preventing tears in the muscles or ligaments by raising your body temperature and improving circulation.
After a workout session, it’s a good idea to do passive stretches to relax the muscles you used. A stretch routine ensures that tight muscles are relaxed to minimise the trauma of lifting weights, running a marathon or endurance training.
When stretching, make sure your movements are precise and pay attention to what you are doing. A personal trainer can help you with that.
So how can you stretch correctly with the help of your personal trainer?
Your personal trainer can show you how to avoid injury when stretching – for example with the aid of fitness bands if you are not very flexible yet. Photo credit: bwanderd on VisualHunt.com
Listen to your personal trainer and don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about how or why a certain stretch is done a certain way. They will also help you measure your progress and tell you how best to achieve your fitness goals.
The Internet has millions of videos all eager to teach you how to stretch.
Indeed, when exercising outside of your personal training sessions, you might want to use a video to help you with your stretches.
Like a personal trainer, the video trainer will be able to demonstrate the different movements to help you stretch.
Here are some sites that offer online personal training:
But remember: video or virtual trainers can’t offer feedback!
By now, you know it: stretching is invaluable for your muscle’s recuperation.
If anyone knows the benefits of stretching, it’s a cat. Photo credit: JKleeman on Visual hunt
Here are 10 tips to help you stretch properly, alone or in a personal coaching session: