Most gym training programs look like this: pre-workout drink, a little bit of a warm up on the bike or treadmill, hit the weights, work up a sweat, and then head home for a post-workout meal including protein, glutamine, BCAA, and the best dietary supplements to enhance the work you just put in.
You feel good, your muscles are pumped and all in all it’s a good day at the “office”, right?
What’s missing from this otherwise normal military gym training routine is stretching. Face it, we all have an urge to just skip this part of the workout. After an intense workout, slowing down to stretch can seem a little anti-climactic.
But your flexibility has more benefits than the low amount of exertion suggests.
When to Warm Up for Gym Training
Now before we get into the best stretching strategies, let’s talk about temperature. Specifically: warming up. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not warming up before your workout will enhance performance. Some say yes, others say no. So while a quick jog as a warm up before a sport may provide some benefit by helping you get into the right mindset, stretching in and of itself is not considered a “warm-up”.
The purpose of stretching is to improve your flexibility, your range of motion. And stretching is best done when your muscles are warmed up so you avoid injury.
There are all kinds of benefits to stretching. Being more flexible reduces your chance of injury and can also increase your performance in your sports training and gym training programs. We’ll talk more about the benefits of stretching in another post, but for now, let’s talk strategy.
Stretching Strategies for Sports Training
Everybody has different levels of flexibility. And some of the factors include age, since flexibility declines with age, and your body’s anatomy. What’s important when you look at your own gym training program is to assess your flexibility based on you – not the flexibility of someone else.
Don’t try to push beyond what’s comfortable just because the person stretching next to you is a part-time contortionist!
Stretching Strategy #1: Make each stretch a controlled movement. Avoid bobbing, bouncing and jerking. Bouncing during a stretch can actually cause tissue damage and increase pain.
Stretching Strategy #2: Breathe. Inhale and exhale normally during your stretches. When you hold your breath, your blood pressure increases.
Stretching Strategy #3: Relax. This can be hard if all you’re thinking about is what you’re going to eat when you’re done! However, relax your mind and your body. This will help you achieve a greater range of motion.
Stretching Strategy #4: No Pain. You want to stretch to a point where you experience mild discomfort…not pain. Especially when stretching your spine. Keep the movements fluid.
Stretching Strategy #5: Hold on! Each stretch position should be held from 30–60 seconds. That may seem like an eternity…but if you do 10–15 different stretches, that’s only 10–15 minutes out of your day. So relax, and enjoy it.
Stretching Strategy #6: Consistent Improvement. For best results, stretch consistently. It’s best to just make it part of your gym training program so that it becomes habit. Each week, try to stretch just a little more than you did the week before to improve your range of motion. Remember, you only need to compete with yourself.
Stretching will improve your overall fitness training. Less injuries and greater performance will be your reward. Look, you’ve got a gym training program already, so just add 10–15 minutes on the backside and give your muscles what they need to thrive.
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