What happens if I don’t stretch after exercise?
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion and operate our joints properly. Without consistent stretching, muscles shorten and become “tight”. With shortened muscles, our end range of motion diminishes, and our tendons and ligaments become weaker. In essence, we aren’t able to move as effectively as we could, and therefore are more prone to injury.
The purpose of stretching (we aren’t literally stretching muscle groups) is to lengthen and mobilize the connective tissue around your muscles, which helps your joints and your muscles groups.
Stretching after a workout can help us “cool down”. In essence, after an intense period of fitness, our heart rate is high and our body is working hard to maintain a healthy internal temperature. Taking time to stretch, or work through simple poses will allow us to intentionally lower our heart rate to a normal level, as well as give our body focused time to regain a proper internal state.
Ease the Oncoming Soreness
After we’ve ripped and caused damage to our muscles (that’s what happens when we workout), stretching or working our body through a simple range of motion, will allow those muscles to get some tender love and care as they begin the recovery process.
Optimize our Range of Motion
It might sound silly, but after our body has engaged in some exercise, and the muscles are “warmed up and loose”, it is good to put ourselves in various positions and hold those positions to increase our end ranges and help us hit those positions easier and more technically. For example, today’s class workout of wall-walks, box step ups, and goblet squats will hit nearly every aspect of our body. After the workout, take some time and hold a squat, and maybe with a barbell in the front rack or overhead position. Doing this will help us solidify those front-rack/overhead positions easier, even though they aren’t exactly the emphasis of the class workout. Our front squat and overhead squat, cleans and snatches will improve with a little extra time in those positions.