Importance of Stretching
By: Richard Sirianni
Many forget about the importance of stretching or are too tired or lazy to do it prior to or after their workouts. We allow ourselves to not realize the full potential of stretching. For nothing else, it can improve strength by getting the muscles loosened and an increase in nutrient supply to the stretched area. This allows for quicker healing and greater muscle growth. The faster we deliver nutrients into the torn muscle fibers, the faster they heal and cause less soreness. Moving the lactic acid from our muscles into the bloodstream allows for this (lactic acid) to be excreted from our bodies and water, minerals, nutrients to occupy that space that lactic acid occupied. Thus stimulating more growth in our muscle fibers,
On a functional side, stretching helps prevent injury in sports and out everyday lives. I found this out the hard way. I have been training bodybuilding style for 4 years. I have had low back pains from herniated disc when I was 17. I always chalked all pain in that region to my injury. Recently I have been seeing a long term care chiropractor to help with some pain. Mid September 2010, I had such intense cramping in my lower back, hips, and oblique’s of my right side. The problem was the damage from my injury caused me to compensate my weight to my left side to alleviate my pain. I believed I had slipped a disc with the amount of pain I was in. Come to find out, my psoas muscle (internal obliques) cramped and spasmed, without letting go for 3 days. I began a rigorous stretching regiment and within a week the spasms and cramping had relinquished themselves and my everyday back pain also was gone. I now incorporate stretching into my pre-workout home routine. That way when I get to the gym I’m ready to wage war on my body.
For prevention of injuries we look for two types of stretching, static and dynamic. Static stretching is an older method in which you reach to a point of tension and hold that for a designated count. The more preferred method is dynamic stretching. This involves extending and retracting our stretch with our breath. This allows the body to slowly reach a point further into your stretch, but is not forced by anything more than ourselves. A simple example is the unweighted walking lunge. The walking lunge stretches the hip flexors/extensors, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
I found out the hard way the importance of stretching, and I write this to inform us all that we need to stretch. It promotes better health, prevents some injury, and can lead to greater muscle growth. Even if you’re not into bodybuilding, it still can help our everyday life with a better posture and in turn can a better life.
“One Dream, One Reality”
Today we are looking at one of the more over looked aspects of training and that is warming up. I have found that a lot of people don’t warm up before training for a number of reasons like, not having enough time, lack of knowledge or just didn’t want to. I break the warming up process into three parts.
Part 1 – General Warm-up
This part involves some light cardiovascular work. It only has to be 5 to 10 minutes at a light pace but it is probably the most important part of warming up. The general warm-up serves many purposes. One is increasing internal body temperature. Have you ever heard the phrase “a warm muscle is an elastic muscle”? If not I probably made it up but it’s definitely true. What happens as your body temperature increases is the blood flow to the working muscles becomes increased. As this occurs, the muscles become more susceptible to elongating or stretching. Another benefit of increased blood flow is more oxygen and nutrients will reach the working muscles during the training session resulting in better recovery. Lastly a proper general warm-up will cause the body to produce various hormones that are responsible for energy production.
Part 2 – Dynamic stretching
Dynamic stretching involves movements that involve muscular force to produce the stretch. I normally refer to dynamic stretching as “active stretching”. This is the type of stretching you want to do before your workout. Traditional static stretching where you stretch and hold should be saved for after the workout. Static stretching done before your workout can lead to a decrease in strength during your workout. Dynamic stretching includes movements such as arm swings, internal and external shoulder rotations, trunk rotations, body weight squats, side bends, and ext. You only need to perform a few dynamic stretches before your workout, most importantly for the muscle you are working that day.
Part 3 – Warm up sets
The last part of the warm up includes light warm up sets. Before you go right into heavy lifting during your training it is important to get a warm up set in. This is just a light first set of an exercise to prepare your muscles for the work ahead. It also is a practice run where you can practice your form on the exercise to make sure you have it down perfect before the working sets. Make sure the warm up set is not too heavy and feels like a working set because that is not what we are looking for.
Conclusion – Warming up is important not only for performance benefits but for health benefits as well. By warming up you can significantly decrease your likelihood of getting injured during training. Next time you go to the gym make sure you get your warm up in!