This is a topic that most weight trainers
seem to overlook. Stretching is essential to help you avoid injuries and
aid in muscle recovery. It helps to maintain the pliability of your muscles
and connective tissue. Without stretching, your range of motion will become
so restrictive that any movement outside of your range could result in
injury or extreme pain.
Some benefits of stretching include:
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Improved posture
- Reduced risk of lower back pain
- Increase blood and nutrient flow to tissues
and throughout body
- Improved muscle coordination
Before I work a muscle group, I always lightly
stretch that muscle group first. This is not including my warm-up sets.
You should never stretch when your muscles are cold. Always warm-up first
with some light form of aerobic exercise.
So, if I was working my chest, after my
5 minute warm-up on the lifecycle, I would do some light stretching of
my chest and shoulder muscles. This usually takes 2-3 minutes, then onto
the actual warm-up for the particular exercise I am performing. After
a couple of warm-up sets, I am usually ready to start the heavy work.
Once I have performed a few heavy sets, I will continue to stretch during
and after I finish that particular exercise.
So, after I finish working my chest, for
example, I will finish off with a good, deep (painful!) stretch of that
muscle group. Stretching your muscles while they are pumped will gradually
help to stretch your connective tissue or muscle fascia. This eventually
allow your muscles to grow past their current size. Muscle fascia is like
a tight girdle around the muscle fibers, restricting their size. This
is why guys who were once overweight find it much easier to gain muscle
mass--their connective tissue has already been stretched to allow more
Stretching before your session is necessary
to warm-up and loosen your joints, muscles and ligaments, while stretching
after your workout helps to aid in recovery. When you stretch the muscles
you just worked it will help to remove the lactic acid buildup in those
muscles. Stretching helps in the removal waste from the muscles, and supplies
them with much needed oxygen and nutrients. This
will also help to alleviate some of the muscle soreness that accompanies
The technique I use is in two stages:
First I stretch the muscle for about 3-5
seconds, then release. Next, I concentrate on really relaxing that muscle
group. I take a deep breath, exhale slowly and start the stretch again.
On this second stretch, I want to go further
than the first time. I hold this stretch for as long as I can tolerate
the pain (about 20-30 seconds), all the while, continually trying to relax
and go deeper and farther. While stretching, remember to breathe and relax
more each time you exhale.
Note: Never bounce or do any type of forceful