Stretching … when to do it, what type to do and why. This can be a complex and even debatable topic, but stretching and flexibility go hand-on-hand, so why not combine your exercise programming to include purposeful stretching for flexibility?!
Stretch Between Weightlifting Sets
Both strength training and flexibility training are so important for everyone. If you have a hard time finding time to incorporate a strengthening and stretching program into your lifestyle, then combine your stretching with your strength training. If you have had any experience in strength-training, you know that for each exercise and for each muscle group you train, you perform a certain number of sets, usually between one and five. Between each set, you need to rest and let your muscles recover before going on to the next set. Well, what better use of your resting time than to stretch that specific muscle that you’re currently training? Think about it, you’ve just done a set of 10 reps on the bench press. Now you have to rest, usually about one to two minutes before doing the next set. Your chest is warm and you have time before you start your next set. This is a great time to stretch your chest .
How often do you see people who neglect to warm up before their cardiovascular exercise or strength-training sessions? They begin going through their stretching routine before their muscles are even warm. It makes more sense to stretch each specific muscle between sets of strength training exercises. For example, if you are on a strength-training program where you do one exercise of three sets of 10 reps for each major muscle group in the body, you will want to work each muscle group one at a time starting with larger muscle groups and proceeding to smaller groups. Do your first set with relatively light weight to warm-up, then rest for a minute or so and then increase the weight and go onto the next set of 10 reps (or whatever your goal reps happens to be).
After the second set, your muscles should be warm and ready to be stretched. While resting before your third set, stretch the muscle that you have just trained, remembering the important principles of the static stretch, then proceed to your third and final set. Stretch the muscle one more time, even a little further. Go on to the next exercise for the next muscle group and after it is warm, do your stretch for that muscle, and so on. When you have gone through each of your strength training exercises, you will have stretched each muscle without taking up any more time.
Stretch Before and After Cardiovascular Exercise
If it is your day off from strength training and you are just doing your cardiovascular exercise routine, first warm-up for 5-10 minutes at a low intensity (50-60% of your maximum heart rate) and then stretch the muscles used. Proceed doing a cardiovascular exercise for at least 20 minutes at an intensity of 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Then cool down for 5-10 minutes at a low intensity (50-60% of your maximum heart rate). Now, because your muscles are very warm you should stretch each of the major muscle groups involved in the exercise, using the static stretching techniques we explained previously. For example, if you walked on the treadmill, you should stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and lower back. Proper technique for each stretch is absolutely critical for achieving maximum effectiveness in any one specific muscle group. In addition to stretching those muscles used in the exercise, now is also a good time to go through the full body stretching routine—since blood has circulated throughout your body and warmed up your muscles.
I hope you have found the information in this article helpful. You now have the knowledge to achieve the results you desire and the benefits your body deserves. Your greatest challenge, however, is not learning new stretching exercises or the proper technique; it’s not learning how long to hold the stretch or the best time to stretch. Nor is it deciding when to try new stretching exercises. The greatest challenge facing you at this moment is deciding whether you are willing to take action and make time for yourself and make flexibility training a priority.
When you begin achieving great results, the excitement and fun you experience will make the change well worth the effort. Action creates motivation! Good luck, we hope you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of an effective flexibility-training program.