Stretching is great, it not only improves appearance, lengthens muscles, and gives that lean, toned look, but it also improves fitness and health. It is the ultimate for preventing injuries. Stretching is a great warm up or cool down and improves muscular coordination, as well as prevents soreness and promotes faster recovery.
Why should you stretch?
Stretching helps prevent postural problems.
Simple stretches increase range of motion.
It improves muscle appearance and elongates the muscle fibres which in turn will get bigger under load and strain, so keep pumping that iron.
Flexibility exercises help prevent overuse injuries from occurring.
Stretching gives you more flexibility, which prevents soreness, allowing for faster recovery and better muscle growth.
Who should stretch?
Everybody can benefit from the positive aspects of stretching. The best thing to do is to follow a regular stretching routine or program of stretching exercises. Everyone should include stretching along with their training, and we think this can sometimes be overlooked.
When should you stretch?
At PunchStrong we recommend stretching early in your workout after an initial warm up. First, warm-up for 5-10 minutes at a low intensity (such as a cross trainer machine, exercise bike, treadmill or skipping rope) and stretch the muscles used. Whether you are strength training, cardio smashing or drilling techniques, once you have finished you should spend time stretching the muscle groups you have been training at the end of your session.
Always stretch after you warm up! Warm muscles stretch much easier than cold muscles.
Best case scenario is to stretch every single day for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. At the least, 3-4 times per week. A 10-15 minute stretching warm up is ideal. Another good time to stretch is right before bed, but only if you are warmed up. It relaxes the muscles and will help you unwind from the tension of the day and have a good night’s sleep.
Not only do we stretch before and after a training session we also stretch between weightlifting sets and drills to keep the muscles flexible and loose. Your muscles will appreciate the added rest and recuperation given to them between sets.
If you’re pressed for time and lead a PunchStrong lifestyle then the best stretching routine may be to do a light warm up (maybe 5-10 minutes skipping rope), then smash your usual workout, stretching between sets as you go. When you are done with your workout, you will have thoroughly stretched all of the major muscle groups without taking up much additional time.
How should you stretch?
Stretching should not include bouncing, it should be gentle, slow, and controlled if you want to receive the most benefits. This type of stretching is called static stretching. At PunchStrong we recommend static stretching for all the major muscle groups.
Always stretch opposing muscle groups such as biceps/triceps, hamstrings/quads, abs/lower back. Stretching only one of a muscle group could create an imbalance, which can cause a decrease in flexibility.
Bouncing seems like it would be effective, but it actually causes your muscles to slightly flex as a reflex to the bounce. Also, it’s better if you gradually ease into the stretch, so as to not pull or injure your muscle fibres. We take 30-60 seconds to ease to the point of your stretch. This maximum point is what is known as the “pain edge”. Once you find this maximum point, try and hold the stretch a little less than the point of feeling pain. This is your stretch zone and it’s where you should aim to hold the stretch (not any further or you will injure yourself).
Keep your breathing soft and consistent in a normal rhythm during the hold. Relax and move on to the next movement. Over time, you will gain more flexibility and be able to stretch further with more comfort.
Keeping your muscles in good form will allow you to get bigger, stronger, and more importantly prevent injury.
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