Completing stretching or foam rolling in the form of a warm-up and cool-down should be classed as the beginning and the end of a workout, not an additional factor. It is vital to keeping muscles flexible, strong and healthy, whether it is through dynamic stretching, during the warm-up, or static, during the cool-down.
The warm-up steadily increases the heart rate - preparing your body for exercise - whereas the cool-down decreases the heart rate and relaxes the muscles in order to return the body to its original state.
Stretching and foam rolling can:
Prevent blood pooling
Decrease Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS – aching post workout)
Dispose of waste products and toxins
Decrease the chance of injury
When you exercise, the heart increases blood flow and sends more oxygenated blood to the muscles to help them contract. If exercise is suddenly stopped, the blood can pool in the muscles, which can increase DOMS the next day. It also means that waste products and toxins collected during exercise remain in the muscle tissue rather than being flushed out. Stretching slowly brings the heart rate back to normal and assists the body in ridding the muscles of these waste products whilst increasing nutrients and oxygenated blood, aiding recovery.
It also plays a vital role in injury prevention. If waste products and toxins remain within the muscle post workout, it can cause stiffness. This makes the muscle shorten, which, in turn, leads to weakness. When muscles are weaker, it can lead to tears in the muscles when movements are performed. For example, if you sit down for a long period of time, the hamstrings will be in a shortened position - this is why you feel stiffness in the back of your leg when you stand up after prolonged periods of sitting down. Instead of the muscle being able to stretch, the muscle fibres tears. This is why a cool-down is seen as a recovery step.
Foam rolling, mainly done in the cool-down phase, is a form of self-massage, and who doesn’t love a massage! Not only does it aid to flush out the muscles, it can also relieve trigger points. They occur when muscle fibres break down and heal in a knot. By holding on these points and taking deep breaths, you temporarily starve the muscles of oxygen, forcing the point to relax, thus leaving the fibres untangled and healthy.
It also helps to release fascia. Fascia is like cling film that covers every muscle fibre and muscle group. Its aim is to reduce friction between structures within the body, allowing for smooth and energy efficient movements. When fascia becomes tight, it can reduce the range of movement in joints and decrease the efficiency of movements. Foam rolling helps to release fascial tension, allowing you to get the most out of the movements you do during your workout.
So, don’t forget to complete a warm-up and cool-down. Remember it should be classed as part of your workout and recovery in order to keep your body in optimum form!
If you need any further information, you can get in touch with our expert personal trainers in Bristol by calling 0117 403 7600, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more on our Facebook page.