The Best Ability is Availability – Two Forms of Stretching That Will Keep You Injury Free & Ready for Action!
By Mike Shaw, Founder, 1205 Fitness, Inc.
Working out is the damndest thing. We know we must do it if we want to keep ourselves in peak condition, but the more we do it, especially as we get older, the more susceptible we become to injury. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been nursing a nagging injury when somebody tells me,“That’s what you get for running around like a maniac at your age.” To which my internal dialogue screams, “How would you know, you’re out of shape? You’ve never worked out a day in your life.” But outwardly I just smile and politely say, “It’s not because I’m old(er), it’s because I train hard and refuse to believe that I can’t compete just because I’m 54 years old.”
There is, however, some truth to the naysayer’s theory. We do become increasingly susceptible to injury as we get older. But the answer isn’t to stop working out. While the sedentary lifestyle might save us from the occasional sore hamstring and tight lower back, it will also leave us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, impotence, and a host of other miserable diseases I’d prefer to never experience. So, if we’re not ready to give up our training routine,what are we to do?
As the title of the article implies, we need to stretch to keep ourselves injury-free if we want to maintain an active lifestyle. To that end, knowing how and when to stretch, is just as important as the workout itself. Common sense should tell us that we shouldn’t force a cold muscle to endure intense exercise. Hence the term, “warm-up.” The activity in which we must engage as a means of warming up prior to exercise is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching uses very little to no resistance while moving one or several muscles through a full range of motion around a specific joint. With dynamic stretching, we never stop or hold any position. Instead, we continually contract and extend the muscle(s) around the joints that we intend to use, generating a small amount of heat that allows the muscles to become more pliable, which in turn makes them less prone for muscle strains.
Another benefit of dynamic stretching is the protection it affords our joints when enduring extreme stress and resistance, like when performing a heavy lift or repetitive motion. As we progress through our dynamic stretches, synovial fluid is released around our joints allowing us to move through our ranges of motion more easily.
Now that we know we should incorporate dynamic stretching into our warmup routine, do we need to incorporate stretching after our workout as well? Yes…and no. Yes, the post workout stretch is equally important, but we do not need to engage in dynamic stretching after our training session. At this point our muscles and joints are already warm and lubricated, so there is no need for dynamic stretching, yet there is a need for static stretching.
Consistently engaging in chronic static stretching post-workout will, over time, enable our muscles to lengthen and become stronger and more proficient throughout their entire range of motion, instead of just in the shorter, contracted state. It stands to reason that if we put our muscles through a series of intense contractions, as is the case with any form of resistance training, it would be beneficial to restore them to their functional length post workout. Imagine walking around with all of your muscles in a contracted state…not too comfortable a prospect. Simply put, we will have bigger, stronger, and more functional muscles when we practice static stretching.
Static stretching is exactly the opposite of dynamic stretching. It is indispensable after exercise, and in some ways detrimental prior to exercise. To perform a static stretch, we lengthen the muscle to just slightly past our comfort zone and hold that position between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. The goal is to lengthen the muscle and increase range of motion over time. Make sure to stretch the muscle to a length where you feel it, but not so far that it is acutely painful.
Static stretching leads to improved performance. A larger functional range of motion enables us to perform with more speed and power. Our muscles can perform their contractions throughout a larger range of motion in the same amount of time and without increasing effort. Ultimately, static stretching can have as much of an impact on performance as the training itself.
We can say with relative certainty that both dynamic and static stretching, when utilized correctly, will improve performance, reduce tightness, and increase flexibility. If you have been lifting weights and/or engaging in any kind of intense performance training for a significant length of time, and not stretching, you may already have experienced extreme muscle tightness, spasms, joint inflammation, trigger points, and painful adhesions. Training without stretching can create a significant loss of range of motion, which is extremely difficult to correct.
The final word on stretching is that if you think you don’t have time for a pre-workout dynamic stretching routine and a post-workout static stretching routine, you are risking setting yourself back weeks or even months due to injury. You should also perform a static stretching routine on your off days to keep your muscles elongated. This truly is an example of “An ounce of prevention being worth a pound of care!”
Today’s thought: If we don’t have time to do it right, when will we find time to do it over?
Photo Credit: orislav
Michael Shaw began his professional fitness journey in 1994 in Short Hills, New Jersey. During the ensuing 28 years Michael has helped thousands of loyal followers achieve their best life through superior exercise and nutrition programming. Along the way, he competed as an amateur bodybuilder, triathlete, spartan racer, and most recently, at the age of 50, competed in the U.S. Muay Thai Eastern Regional Championships. Michael makes his home in Monmouth County with his wife Jodi and children Veronica and Remington. Michael maintains an exclusive training client roster in addition to working with teenagers and young adults helping them build healthy self-images, life skills, and strong bodies. To inquire about working with Michael, please contact him at email@example.com