To be honest, I often meet gym-goers complaining about unpleasant pains when underestimating stretching. I do feel sorry for them because some are lucky enough to avoid it for now but you cannot cheat on your body forever. I myself experienced these pains where you cannot move certain parts of body so I had to drop certain exercises or totally skip the gym, and that is quite heart-breaking if you train for more than just muscles or just want to get in shape badly because you need to be consistent. There are many types of stretching so which ones to go for?
First things first, you already know how it ends up when implementing poor stretching or none at all. The purpose of stretching is not just avoid injuries but improve flexibility in order to increase range of motions, thus better physique, more strength and performance. The muscular system needs to be flexible to achieve peak performance and stretching is vital element toward developing this competence. It enables better blood circulation which means more nutrition into your muscles during and after workouts resulting in less fatigue during a workout and better regeneration afterwards.
Before we find out which ones to set up in your plan, let me clear out all the confusion related to stretching. Stretching is not a quick fix and what others say might not be true cause there are many types of stretching with different purpose. On the other hand, it is the consistency and diligence that makes it all matter. All in all, everything is beneficial if implemented right and consistent. So how to go about it?
The first two things in mind, what you want to achieve by implementing stretching routine and which muscle groups do you intend to use. Achieving better physique while being efficient we focus on multi-joint/compound exercises where applying mostly big muscle groups. This means stretching is not required to be complex or long as workout lasts only 30-40 minutes. It is more matter of doing and not ditching.
The other thing is doing it right by not overdoing it, in other words, you should breath and stop stretching when feeling pain. You should feel good and relaxed especially after training. Being warmed-up before implementing any exercise or stretching is must as tight and cold muscles under stress lead to nasty injuries.
There are two types of stretching that I implement on daily basis (Dynamic and Static). Seeing the benefits of training effectively and constantly investing in health, the body stays active most of the days which means, stretching becomes natural even outside of gym.
Dynamic loosens up your joints and improve circulation to achieve better performance and must be implemented first and make sure to cover all body parts as we train whole body. It is controlled soft and gentle bounce or swinging movements. Our goal should always be trying to find the most effective approach. As I live only 2 minutes from gym I start at home with foam rolling and take a fast walk where preparing my mind for the training. I also dress up warm so that, I get more warmed-up and still keep the hoodie on while spending additional 5 minutes of dynamic stretching at gym.
If you are new to gym, investing more time in stretching will become must when your fitness level goes up. The purpose of dynamic stretching is to prepare your body for stress which will be constantly growing with increasing weights and intensity. Warming-up for 5-10 minutes depending on weather, body temperature and your fitness level. The more advanced fitness level and higher temperature the less time needed.
Finishing with Static stretching is ideal to improve recovery, avoid further injuries, soreness and lengthen muscles, thus improving flexibility and strength (increased range of motion). The point is to put your muscles under tension slowly and hold it so we can lengthen and relax it. The recommended minimum is 20s at least to get the benefits. Static stretching is very safe and effective form of stretching with a limited threat of injuries. I personally spend more time on them than dynamic as I really want to improve flexibility so that, I can constantly progress.
Some of the static stretches in the end just so you get the feel. Lastly, this is the end chapter of 5 rules of effective training and you can find the whole book that is easy to read and very useful on stretching practices. However, I find less time consuming to check other sources of reference list. It is up to you which ones you go for as long as you cover the whole body and never drop stretching.