For ages, I couldn’t wait to get out of the gym after a workout and often skipped the cool down and stretch. Stretching and mobility work is one of the most forgotten aspects of an exercise routine, which might be the result of time limits, exhaustion from a workout, or not being aware of the benefits of stretching. Whatever reason you have not to stretch, I would really recommend for you to reconsider. Nowadays, I ensure that I stretch for at least 10 minutes after every workout. This is what I recommend in my F.I.T. programs, together with one longer, full-body stretching session per week.
Benefits of mobility work and stretching
1. It reduces your risk of injury
Stretching and mobility work allows your muscles to restore their full range of motion, which will help reduce the risk of injury. Shortened and tight muscles are normally ‘overworked’ and compensate for other muscles.
2. It improves performance
When you perform an exercise at its full range of motion you are able to activate more muscle fibers and this will help with muscle development and performance.
3. It increases blood flow to your muscles
Ensuring good flexibility and range of motion actually helps with the blood flow to your muscles. Ensuring you have god blood flow to your muscles will help with nutrient delivery and waste removal, which in turn will help with recovery and reducing muscle soreness.
4. It improves balance and coordination
Most people do not think about balance and coordination when talking about stretching. However, it has been shown that restoring your flexibility has a positive effect on these, which in turn will reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself.
5. It improves posture
Chronically tense and tight muscles can cause poor posture. By restoring the length of these muscles, you will improve your posture.
6. It reduces stress
Stress can often cause tense muscles and stretching will help counteract this. And, stretching will also help reducing feelings of stress and help your body recharge.
Foam rolling is something that has become popular the last couple of years and is something I try to do regularly together with ‘traditional’ stretching. Combining these two results in the best improvements in flexibility. Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that is great to treat muscle soreness, tightness and helps restore the range of motion.
How to use the foam roller
When using the foam roller, slowly roll up and down the targeted muscle. When you find a point that feels particularly tight or sore, roll back and forth over that point, or even just hold the roller on that point, and gently work the ‘knot’ out. Quite often the slower you work over a muscle, the more benefit you will get.
If you find rolling a muscle is too painful in any certain area, don’t think that you shouldn’t roll over that part (provided your technique is correct). If your technique is correct, it could mean that muscle is really tight, and could need more work as opposed to less.
Below are some of my favourite lower body foam rolling moves.
How to: Sit on the foam roller with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind you to support your body. Place one foot over the opposite knee and tilt the bent knee towards the floor to open up your hip. Roll out your entire glute. Repeat on the other side.
How to: Sit with your leg straight out in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath the mid of your thighs. Place your hands on the floor behind you for support. Roll the entire length of your hamstring, from the bottom of your glutes to the just above the back of your knees.
How to: Lie on your stomach. Place the foam roller against one of your inner thighs at a 45-degree angle. Roll the length of your inner thigh, from your groin to just above your knee. Repeat on the other side.
How to: Lying on your side hold yourself up on the bottom of your bottom forearm. Place the foam roller underneath the middle of your bottom thigh. Bend the top knee and place the foot on the ground in front on your hip. Roll the length of your outer thigh, from the bottom of your hip to just above your knee. Repeat on the other side.
How to: Lie on your stomach. Place the foam roller under your hips whilst holding yourself up on your forearms. Roll the length of your entire quad, from your hips to just above your knees.
As you can see, ensuring you have a good range of motion and flexibility is important to keep injury free and to help improve performance.
Do you include foam rolling regularly? Please let me know in the comments below.