Exercise stretching, before and after exercise is just as important in body building as the exercises themselves. You've heard it ever since elementary school gym class that you need to warm up and stretch your muscles before you exercise or play sports and the reasons are as valid now as they were back then. The effort expended and the amounts of weight and force used during a body building workout makes it very easy to injure yourself, and it could be permanent. That should have gotten your attention.
There are also benefits, other than safety, to using stretching. Warming up the muscles prior to working out will allow you to get the maximum results from each exercise performed, as the blood is flowing through the muscle making it more receptive to responding to the exercise. And the cool down stretching actually helps reduce the recovery time for the muscles which helps to build muscle mass even faster. The cool down phase keeps the blood flowing through the muscle and allows the waste products from the workout to be carried off which not only speeds recovery, but helps reduce the stiff and sore muscles that you can get after a workout.
Warm Up Exercise Stretching
Most body builders have their own warm up stretching routine they use before every workout that will target the entire body, raising the heartbeat, increasing circulation and preparing their muscles to workout. Do not be tempted to skip this part, as it takes just one injury to put all of your efforts to waste and end your body building days. Develop your own exercise stretching routine and use it before every workout.
A good way to approach the exercise stretching routine is to start at the
head and work your way down your body. It is effective and easy to remember. Go through the neck, shoulders, arms, back, abdominals and legs.
A stretch is used to promote flexibility and prepare for more strenuous exercise. Slowly apply tension, hold and release, and maintaining respiration. Never bounce during stretching, as this can lead to injury. There are guides which describe specific stretching for each muscle group, but just keep in mind that each group is composed of a flexor and an extensor muscle so be sure to stretch these consecutively.
Just prior to beginning the workout, you can get the desired increase in heart rate and respiration by doing a few basic exercises such as running in place, jumping jacks, squats and a quick set of pushups. Run through all that and you should definitely be ready for a great workout.
Cool Down Exercise Stretching
Most of you have had the experience of walking for several minutes after running to catch your breath and let your heart beat get back to normal, and the same principals apply to cool down exercise stretching. These are essentially the same as the warm up stretching, but you just don't hold it as long. Instead of trying to rev up the heart rate and respiration, you are keeping the blood moving and allowing your body to slowly come back after an intense workout. Done properly, cool down exercise stretching will help maintain flexibility, and reduce the muscle soreness that comes with intense exercise. Used together, the warm up and cool down routines will help you get the most out of your workout, and help prevent injuries.