As active athletes, we often concern ourselves with the planning and structuring of our workouts only. It is important for us to have efficient workout plans that bring us closer to our goals, but we often forget important, but seemingly secondary, aspects of a good workout routine. Stretching and mobilizing has many benefits for every active athlete, especially when it comes to to staying free of injuries for a long time.
Stretching and mobilizing sounds like one and the same, but they are different in practice. Muscles are stretched while joints are mobilized. Mobilization is all about preparing the joints for a coming workout, while stretching is about improving mobility (or range of motion). Both are about preventing injuries, but with a different approach.
Mobilizing, among other things, is about preparing the joints used in the upcoming workout for the stress you will experience. The classic shoulder- or wrist circling is just one of many exercises that apply here. Just a few minutes before a training session, especially before high-stress workouts, can help to prevent injuries, so mobilization should not be neglected.
Even though opinions differ as to when exactly should be stretched, it is clear that stretching can play a significant role in preventing injury during training. Among other things, it’s about increasing your own range of motion and making your muscles more flexible. The benefits of doing so are quickly explained: A flexible muscle can yield better to sudden stress, potentially preventing injury. The increased range of motion also allows the muscle to respond better to unexpected positions and prevent injury.
But when should you stretch? Ideally, you can set up an own day just dedicated to stretching. After a short warm-up, you can start already and benefit from numerous benefits for your workouts. Stretching before working out is usually recommended, when the exercise requires appropriate mobility (for example in martial arts). As for stretching after working out, opinions are still divided. Personally, I never stretch after a workout and I do not think that’s a good idea. Instead, I try to set up 1-2 days a week for streching.
In my experience, mobilizing, unlike stretching, is already part of training for many athletes, but stretching is often severely neglected. Due to my long history in martial arts, stretching has been a very regular part of my weekly routine for many years (I used to stretch up to 5 times a week). My mobility has improved a lot and I am still convinced that I have avoided many injuries that I would have suffered without such mobility. I can only recommend to every athlete not no neglect mobilization and stretching.
Want to know more about specific exercises for stretching and mobilizing? Let me know in the comments!
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