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Stetching And Active Recovery

Stretching and Active Recovery

Precision Orthopedics By Precision
June 26, 2024 | Health

After previously covering such topics as strength training and cardio exercise, we felt it absolutely necessary to bring up an often-overlooked, yet vital area of training:

Stretching and Active Recovery.

Although this may seem like the least exciting and slowest part of an exercise plan, you wouldn’t believe the level of its importance. After all, it’s during the downtime that your muscles actually grow.

But what is it that makes muscles grow?

Well, when performing any form of exercise, specifically resistance exercise, you actually create thousands of micro-tears within the muscle exerted.

Then, when at rest, your body repairs these micro-tears in a way that adapts your muscles for heavier loads and stimulus in the future. This process is called muscle hypertrophy; or more commonly known as muscle gain.

After training, it can take up to 7 days for your muscles to fully recover. However, as those micro-tears heal and create new muscle tissue, various knots, and occasional muscle tightness will become more and more common.

Over time, if left untreated – without care and proper attention – those knots and tightness can lead to negative muscle stress or even injury.

Which is not so good at all!

We’re only going to say this once, but you should probably remind yourself of this after every strenuous workout:

Post-workout muscle care is paramount to a long, strong, and active life.

It’ll only take five minutes at the end of each session, but you’ll see, with time, just how important those five minutes can be…

In this article, we’re going to focus on two forms of muscle care in the form of stretching:

static stretching and self-myofascial release.

You’ll have seen plenty of forms of static stretching before, in fact, we have almost no doubt that you have performed some form of static stretching in your life. Perhaps even without realizing it!

When you stand, sit, or lie in a single stretching position for a short period of time, you are performing static stretching.

And static stretching is one of the best post-workout practices for several reasons.

The most important reason is that it helps lengthen and release tension in the muscles previously trained. This can relieve muscular stress while preventing muscle stiffness and cramps from occurring later in the day.

Because midnight cramps are no fun at all – we’ve all been there, and none of us wants to go back…

Static stretches performed on the muscles trained can also increase oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flow to that muscle group. Which will drastically improve the rate of recovery, while reducing the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Furthermore, by performing static stretches immediately after a workout, you’ll boost your overall flexibility within that muscle group. Which not only corrects postural issues and muscle imbalances, but also increases agility, speed, and muscular strength – giving you better performance for future workouts.

Static stretching also feels pretty darn good, so there’s your final cherry on top.

We’ll be sure to include some basic static stretching routines at the bottom of this article. 

Moving on to our second form of stretching: self-myofascial release.

Yes, it is just as fun as it sounds.

Self-myofascial release is performed by applying pressure to muscles to help them relax. This can be done via massage, or by using certain tools to ‘knead out’ your muscles. 

By applying certain levels of pressure to contracted muscles you create a stretch reflex in the surface muscle fascia, which provides an incredible amount of muscle tension release. You know when someone gives you a backrub and you feel like melting into the chair? That’s a similar idea to myofascial release.

Like with static stretching, self-myofascial release can help increase flexibility and blood flow, but it also helps prevent or remove muscle knots that can cause a major hindrance to your posture, mobility and training routine altogether.

If you’d like to try some self-myofascial release a great place to start is by getting a foam roller. These tools are firm cylindrical rollers often dotted with small bumps or spikes around the outside.

Use this roller by placing it on the ground and applying your target muscle on top and by using your body weight as pressure, roll back and forth lightly on the foam roller for around 30 seconds to release built-up tension in the target muscle group.

Again, we’ll include a starting routine for you in a PDF below!

Now that we’ve covered the stretching side to this article, let’s briefly touch on the active recovery side.

When it comes to active recovery, we’d like to focus on two key activities that you can and should consider performing on your training days off.

Those two activities are yoga and walking.

Originally written in Sanskrit and hailing from northern India over 5,000 years ago, yoga has become extremely popular in the Western world in recent decades.

And rightly so.

Yoga has been shown to increase flexibility, improve muscular strength and balance, boost metabolism and energy levels, as well as allow the muscles to recover at a faster rate.

We’ve covered various forms of yoga in a previous article, dive into that right here!

Finally, a word on walking and the importance of a gentle stroll!

You see, your fitness journey doesn’t always have to include heavy weights, cardio routines, sweat, deep stretching, and heavy breathing. In fact, a sustainable fitness journey should always include some form of light activity that both relaxes your muscles while clearing your mind.

Studies have shown that walking helps prevent or manage various common health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

But it also improves the mental side of life too, such as general mood, memory, cognition, while improving sleep.

It doesn’t have to be a long, committed walk. Start with just a 15-minute stroll on your next day off and build up little by little; you’ll be surprised at how good you feel afterwards.

To summarize:

Stretching, be it static stretching or self-myofascial release, holds massive benefits to both recovery and progress. Aim to dedicate at least five minutes to the end of each training session, (regardless of its intensity) to a period of cool-down stretching.

You’ll thank yourself in the future.

When it comes to active recovery, move, but not too much! Don’t be afraid to give your body and mind the break they need! A gentle walk, some extra-credit stretching or some yoga are all that’s needed. Learn to enjoy those quieter days and if you’ve earned it, treat yourself to putting your feet up – it’s part of your training plan!

Stretching examples:

Dynamic stretches

Hip stretches

Mobility stretches

Lower back stretches