Workplace stretching routines can be valuable tools in a broader wellness initiative designed to prevent work related injuries and improve performance. On the contrary, if executed incorrectly, these routines can become resented by staff members, ineffective and result in a loss of profits due to unproductivity. Understanding what stretching routines should and shouldn’t be is very important before rolling out such a program. If you would like to research this more, I would suggest reading my post a few weeks ago about how to implement a stretching routine.
Today we will discuss the “how, why and when” of stretching routines and elements that should be included to ensure success.
In my last post on work-place warm-up routines, I said that pre-shift routines should not be static in nature and should include preparatory movement activities that mimic requirements of the job. We spoke about how baseball pitcher warms up in the bullpen, then the field before throwing the first “official” pitch of the game. So, if pre-shift routines should be dynamic in nature, how does stretching fit in? There is no one-size fits all answer to this question because all companies are different based on the nature of work and production demands. To help answer this question, I have provided a list below of how a stretching program could fit in during a work shift:
- If time permits, include stretching routine after pre-shift dynamic warmup.
- It is important to warmup muscles and joints prior to stretching to reduce the risk of injury while performing stretches. Performing stretches “cold” increases the risk of overstretching or irritating a muscle.
- If time permits, utilize stretching routine as a “microbreak” every few hours to change work related postures and relieve stiff muscles.
- 1-2-minute microbreaks multiple times throughout day can be an effective strategy.
- Incorporate stretching routine when returning from lunch break.
- Mid-shift is a great time to perform stretches.
- Perform at the end of shift.
- The ideal time to perform a stretching routine is at the completion of shift. Frequently, focused is placed on the beginning of the work shift; however, the end of the day is the most opportune time to stretch tired, stiff muscles.
- Perform at home.
- When working with our clients, our goal is that their employees incorporate routines as a part of their daily lives, even away from work. We work to design programs that are specific to each employees’ musculoskeletal needs and routines may change overtime based on their current testing scores.
I apologize if I have left the most basic question unanswered: “Why should workers perform a stretching routine?” The answer is quite simple, really. Employees sustain static postures for sometimes up to 12 hours in a work-shift. Some of these postures may be unsafe postures, such as forward bending at the neck or waist. Consistently displaying these positions overtime will result in overly tight muscles, stiff/immobile joints and painful movement. Performing stretches that focus on counteracting specific postures can result in improved musculoskeletal health and enhance performance.
If I have convinced you that your workplace would benefit from implementing a stretching routine, you may now be wondering if there is an opportune time to start such a program. In my professional opinion, there is no “season” that works best for all. Again, the timing should be specific to your company. It is important that the proper steps to implementation listed in my previous post are followed in order to gain support prior to initiating. Also, look at your calendar and figure out when things are slower. I would suggest executing program development during this time and launching your initiative prior to the busy season starting. This will provide team members the time necessary to learn the program and make it a part of their daily routine. This allows the stretching routine to be used as a relief tool when work hours become longer and more stressful.
Want to see examples of routines that could be impactful for you and/or your company? Over the next 14 weeks we will reveal 14 plans that include: warmup routines, stretching routines, mobility routines, postural stability routines, strengthening routines and injury prevention routines. Please remember that these routines are not designed specifically for your company. Before enacting these programs at your workplace, I encourage you to have a conversation (free of charge) with me so that we can determine what is best for your company.
If I can be of any assistance to you or if you have any questions, please connect with me by your favorite platform below. I would love to start a conversation!
Kevin Winn B.S., CIEE, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Kevin is the Executive Director of HealthWorks Kinesiology and is a Certified Industrial Ergonomic Evaluator (CIEE), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT). Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion from Louisiana Tech University.