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Some of us like to step in the gym and go straight for our favorite machine. But there’s a reason why many gyms have stretching areas. Have you ever finished a workout and been left wondering why your muscles were more sore than usual later that day? It may be because you didn’t prepare your muscles properly. Failing to stretch is a very common cause of muscle strain, joint pains and lack of physical ability in and out of the gym. Stretching is one of the most important parts of your

workout.

According to “The Stretching Handbook,” a book written by athletic trainer Brad Walker, stretching increases flexibility and prevents muscle stiffness that restricts physical ability. If you’ve ever had one of those days that you feel extremely stiff all day after leaving the gym, it may have something to do with whether you stretched before and after your workout.

Stretching before a workout is important when you need to prepare properly for strenuous activities like those days when you plan on maxing out on a specific workout or just training harder than usual. It is important to gain full flexibility of the muscle group that you plan to train. Not preparing properly can result in spasms and injuries according to yourfitnessfaq.com. Furthermore, stretching increases the range of motion.

A well-stretched muscle is more resistant to stress than a muscle that has not been properly stretched to the proper extent. According to yourfitnessfaq.com, this is why pre-stretches are the best defense against muscle strains that can potentially ruin your workout and leave you out of commission before you have the chance to finish.

Post-workout stretching is just as important. Not stretching muscles back out to their regualr length after working them can lead to extreme discomfort or injuries within muscle groups and joints as well, according to yourfitnessfaq.com.

Stretching after working out also helps promote circulation, reduce muscle soreness and increase performance while learning new skills.

There are however, some circumstances in which it would be more harmful than helpful to stretch.

Recent strains, sprains or bone fractures are important issues that should be considered when deciding whether or not to perform any stretching exercises. In the case of anything of this nature, livestrong.com strongly advises that stretching of all forms be avoided at all costs until the affected ligament has fully healed and is cleared for normal use by a

professional.

One common mistake made is stretching when the range of motion is in some way limited. As stated by yourfitnessfaq.com, it is bad practice to force muscles to stretch in directions that go against their natural range of flexibility. This can result in muscle tears and other potential

injuries.