Do you want a simple way to increase your strength and look fine when you flex? Stretch!
However, not all stretching is created equal. Understanding the two “t’s,” timing and type, when it comes to stretching is a key to making flexibility training work for you. Proper stretching in a warm-up, during a workout, and in a cool-down is essential. But “why” you stretch during these phases differs. Therefore “how” you should stretch at each point in your workout also varies.
Try These Stretching Tips to Increase Your Strength
Incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm-up. The intent of dynamic stretching and warming-up is to gradually heat-up muscle fibers, lubricate joints, lengthen fascia, stimulate the nervous system and increase blood circulation throughout the body. Dynamic stretching before pushing hard enhances elasticity in muscle fibers and readies your body for increased challenges.
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Many “rehearsal movements” that mimic what you will do more intensely in your workout later will work as dynamic stretches. An example of dynamic stretching would be doing some slow lunges to stretch hip flexors. Add a twist to the lunge to stretch your core. Throw in high knee lifts for quads with an overhead press to ready your shoulders.
Do not hold static stretches during a warm-up. Studies show static stretching- holding a muscle for a sustained period in a lengthened, stretched position for more than 10 seconds- can hinder your ability to exert force during your strength work later.
During Your Workout
When you are resting between sets or transitioning to another piece of equipment, consider taking the time to dynamically stretch to restore your posture before your next move. This will give muscles a chance to re-oxygenate and allow you to zone-in briefly on realignment so you can maximize your effort on your next move.
Save static stretching for the end of your workout. Hold stretches from 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch two or three times to increase flexibility. Static stretching post-workout serves several purposes.
Holding a muscle in a lengthened position to the point of discomfort, but not pain. Can help free-up joints and associated tissue for a better range of motion. This translates to improved form and function. Your muscles will perform better in both their lengthened and shortened states.
Increased flexibility enables good posture too. There’s little sense in having sculpted pecs if you’re so tight up front that you can’t stand-up straight to show them off! Also, better posture means better breathing and circulation. Your system will be able to efficiently deliver nutrients to the fibers you’ve challenged and whisk away the bad stuff, boosting your recovery.
A Final Plea!
Whenever you stretch, however you stretch, make sure you don’t bounce. Ballistic stretching uses bouncing, or momentum, to force a muscle to stretch beyond its ability. It’s a recipe for injury.