I hate stretching! Who doesn't? We all know I that we should stretch, yet most bodybuilders I ignore this crucial component to overall conditioning. Why? The answer is as simple as it is misguided.
Stretching is boring! In many ways it's the antithesis of weightlifting, for it requires one to calm down and settle into each movement. You don't get psyched for stretching. It doesn't require
aggression. It requires peace of mind. It's slow. It's passive. It's calming. As I said, it's boring.
Okay, so I'm not going to convince anyone to jump up and get down to a thrill-packed session of toe touching, but what if stretching increased the size of your muscles? Aha! Now we're talking.
Physiologists and kinesiologists have discussed, disputed and disagreed for years on the theory that stretching a muscle will lengthen it, thus opening up more potential space. That's a somewhat
simplistic explanation, but it serves to preface another point. Stretching, also in theory, allows for the production of more mitochondria. The mitochondria are located all along the myofibrils
and are commonly known as the powerhouses of the cell, i They produce energy in the form of ATP which is used during contractions, i.e. lifting weight. Through exercise, mostly high-rep resistance
training, and through stretching, the cell must adapt by building more mitochondria. The more mitochondria you develop, the greater potential you have for increased muscle growth. Do I have your
Stretching also aids in the removal of lactic acid, which in turn improves recovery. Probably the most significant merit of including stretching in your weekly routine is the fact that the more
flexible you are, the more efficiently your stabilizer muscles will operate. This is why so many strength coaches will introduce stretching into a powerlifter's training. The reason isn't so that
they can look more graceful. It's so that they aren't hindered with tight muscles. I'm willing to bet that if you increase the flexibility of your hip-flexors, you can improve your squat by as
much as 20 percent. The added flexibility can also prevent injury which can occur when tendons become tight.
Now that you're all feeling guiltier than ever that you don't stretch, what's the next step? You can start by including a few obligatory moves before and after your workout. A little is better
than nothing at all.
Here's a tip that may satisfy even the most reluctant stretchers and start you on your way toward more flexibility and greater gains. You can stretch at any free moment -waiting for a light to
change, sitting at your desk,... Anytime you think of it, stretch!
For those who are flexibility challenged, here are some basic movements that will limber you up in a hurry. You should not do them in a ballistic fashion (bouncing back and forth), but a static
hold isn't necessary either. Fall slowly into each movement and ease off when it gets too intense. Then return to the stretch position.
This is the most basic of all movements that you should do several times a day. Raise your hands high above your head, clasp them together, and interlock your fingers with the palms facing upward.
Now push as high as you can while maintaining an erect posture. Breathe deeply and slowly. ' This is one movement that actually feels good!
Anterior shoulder stretch (pectoralis stretch): Clasp your hands behind your back. Keeping elbows slightly bent, gently push your arms upward, Posterior stretch Place your left hand on your right
shoulder. With your left elbow raised and your left arm parallel to the floor, put your right hand under and behind your left elbow and gently pull it across your body. Repeat for the right side.
This stretch is self-explanatory but those who feel more comfortable doing a bodybuilding-type movement can do it like a good morning exercise. Place your hands behind your head and bend forward as
far as possible while keeping your legs straight and your back flat. You can also reach forward and touch your toes and hold that position for a count of 10.
While lying on your back with knees bent, gently pull both knees toward your chest, lifting your feet off the floor. Hold and relax.
On hands and knees sag back, lifting your head up. Arch your back, head down. Keeping your head down, lean back onto your heels and hold.
Lumbar and Hamstring Stretch
Standing upright with your legs apart and toes pointed outward, raise your arms overhead and turn your torso to the right. Lean forward, bringing your hands as far in front of your foot as possible.
Return to the original position and repeat on the other side.
Clasp your hands behind your back and slowly raise them until they're as high up on your back as possible. Bend your knees slightly and raise your head while slowly leaning backward. Breathe deeply and
hold for a count of 20.
Place your right arm back behind your head as if you were doing a triceps extension. Reach your left hand over your head, grasp your right elbow, and pull gently. Repeat with the other side.
Reach back with your right hand and grasp your right ankle. Bend slightly at the waist, keeping your hips forward and knees adjacent to each other. Raise your left arm. Repeat on the opposite side.
Reach your right arm across your chest and, trapping your upper arm with your left forearm, pull your right arm inward in a curling motion. Hold for a count of 20, and repeat with the other arm.
I suggest devoting at least one day a week to an intense stretching session. It can be in the form of yoga or Pilates or whatever new-titled version is in vogue this week. You don't have to be a contortionist.
Flexibility, like muscle growth, is very much a matter of genetics. Just remember, the more you do, the better you'll get!
Stretching can make a world of difference, not only in your flexibility and general health but also in greater muscle gains. It still may not be the most exciting activity you'll ever experience, but more
strength, more flexibility and more muscle will make it well worthwhile. So stretch!