Stretching, why?

Despite the years of research and mountains of data, there still is no definitive answer to whether stretching is worth your time and effort. Proponents argue that stretching prevents injury, diminishes delayed onset muscle soreness and improves athletic performance. Some go as far as to say that regular stretching can help speed recovery from workouts and improve blood flow to the area being stretched. Opponents will argue that stretching can actually cause injury, and does nothing to improve performance or prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. In fact there are many experts who not only believe stretching does nothing to improve performance, but that it can significantly hinder it. Each side can site numerous studies to support their claims.

Because there is so much conflicting data, should we even bother stretching? The answer is a resounding “yes”. Especially if you lack normal range of motion in your joints. Our bodies are a feat of engineering that man, in all his wisdom and brilliance, cannot replicate. For example, as we grow and develop into adults, we are provided with a certain degree of flexibility governed by our genetics. This flexibility allows us to have a normal range of movement around a joint. This range of movement is crucial to the health of our joints. Training, injuries and the natural aging process all will diminish flexibility and the range of movement we started with. Flexibility is not only lost or gained in the muscle, it’s also determined by tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue. It is this relationship between bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc., that took millions of years to perfect through evolution. Any disturbance between the structures in our joints can lead to hindered performance or serious injury.

No matter which side you take, and no matter what the reason, the data is conclusive on one point: It’s much more effective to stretch muscles that are already warmed up. A warm-up is light to moderate activity lasting 10 – 15 minutes before the actual workout begins. Warming up drives blood into the muscles and synovial fluid into the joints, thus reducing stiffness. If you warm-up first, you’ll make much more progress than if you stretch cold.

To evaluate whether you are developing a restriction around a joint, and to see a list of stretches in their proper order go HERE.


Stretch for Muscle

Are you typically a hardgainer or have you hit a plateau in the gym? Maybe stretching your muscles more is your answer to making gains again in the gym. lays out six ways to stretch for more muscle:

Chest. Grab a pair of dumbbells that you can perform 12-15 reps with on a dumbbell bench press, and get into the bottom position of the exercise (your hands near the outside of your chest).

Back. Hang from a chinup bar in the bottom position of a pullup, palms facing away from you.
Biceps. Set an incline bench to a 45-60-degree angle and sit on it with a dumbbell in each hand. Allow your arms to hang.

Triceps. Hold the end of a towel with one hand and grab the other end behind your back. Pull down with the hand behind your back so that your opposite elbow points upward and that arm’s triceps is stretched. You should look like you’re in position to do a one-arm overhead triceps extension.

Quads. Rest one foot on a bench set to a low incline, and bend the opposite knee so that you go into a split squat position. You should feel the stretch in your rear thigh and that leg’s hip.

Hamstrings. Rest one heel on a bench, step, or other surface that’s three or four feet off the floor. Bend forward and try to kiss your knee.

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