Doing the right stretching after weight training can improve your workout results.
Stretching is one of those activities that you either love or hate. If you’re tight/inflexible/stiff and (probably!) male then you’re less likely to enjoy stretching than if you’re supple, loose, and generally “bendy”.
The irony is that those people who would most benefit from stretching are the people who are most likely to avoid it.
For those who are extremely tight, stretching can provide enhanced performance in sport and weight training.
If you want to succeed with weight training, here are a few stretching guidelines to help you out.
THE LOOSER, THE BETTER?
Contrary to popular belief, being extremely flexible isn’t always beneficial.
While there are certain sports – such as gymnastics and figure skating – that benefit from abnormal flexibility, for the majority of athletes and those involved in strength training there is a limit to the amount of flexibility that is optimal.
In fact, being too flexible can lead to joint instability and injury.
WHAT TO STRETCH
Developing a balanced musculature should involve stretching the muscles that are particularly tight and strengthening muscles that are weak.
Most people stretch the areas that are loose and comfortable and avoid stretches that they find hard, which is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing!
If certain muscles are tight (ie. hamstrings, pecs), you should spend more time stretching them and less on looser muscles.
In fact, if you’re very flexible in a particular area, you should probably skip it altogether. This balances your body so that you enhance your strength and prevent injury.
WHEN TO STRETCH
In recent years, the popularity of static stretching (ie. Holding stretches for several seconds, without movement) prior to weight training has greatly reduced. This is primarily due to a large number of studies that have shown that it can actually increase the rate of injury and reduce muscle strength.
You’re much more likely to see knowledgeable gym goers begin their workout with a dynamic warm-up of full body movements such as knee lifts, lunges, leg swings, bodyweight squats, and hip rotations.
If a particular muscle group is particularly tight and restricts your range of movement (say, your hamstrings if you’re training deadlifts) it may be appropriate to do some short static stretching before your workout.
For the most part, it’s best to keep the majority of static stretching to the end of your workout session.
Focus on your tight muscles and hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds.
It may even help your recovery and enhance muscle growth…although the scientific data is inconclusive on that claim at the moment.
IS IT WORTH IT?
The tighter you are, the more you can benefit from stretching. Feeling more supple and mobile can enhance all your movements, including your strength training and sports performance. Using these stretching guidelines will help you get the most from your weight training routine.