Fit 4 Life | Stretching your performance
WHEN was the last time you included stretches in your workout routine? Do you even consider stretching as training? Admit it, stretching is usually the last consideration when planning a workout session, and the first to be cut should you find you are short on time.
Stretching, however, is not just for the yoga girl who sits next to you at work. When done right, stretching improves flexibility, mobility and performance, thereby preventing injuries and helping to prevent and relieve pain.
Here is how you can (re)introduce stretching into your routines without boring yourself:
Stretches are split into two groups – dynamic and static. Each type of stretch serves a different purpose and should be included at different points during your workout. Neither requires a ‘bajillion’ hours. A few minutes at the start and end of your routine should suffice.
Still doing static (holding) stretches before your workout? Stop. Static stretches before a workout might end up hurting the performance you are trying so hard to improve. Instead, focus on dynamic or active stretching.
Dynamic stretching uses movement rather than holding a stretch. You focus on the flow from one position to the next. Some muscles are stretched and others are activated, providing the perfect performance boosting warm-up.
• Go for a full range of controlled motion. Flow steadily from one position to the next – think yoga.
• Focus on the muscles and joints you intend to work.
LOWER-BODY DYNAMIC STRETCHES
• Walking lunges (with twist)
• High knees
• Butt kicks
• Deep air squats
• Wide-legged lateral squats
• Skipping or hopping
■ Use active/dynamic stretching as part of your warm-up to boost flexibility, mobility and performance while training.
■ Use static stretching after your workout to maintain flexibility and mobility. Doing a few static stretches at the end of a single workout – be sure to target the muscles you worked – will help with next-day muscle soreness.
■ Stretch if you have poor posture. Muscles can shorten over time and create poor posture. Poor posture can also come from consistently training within a limited range of motion.
- Wearing high heels causes shortening of the calves because the calves are constantly in a state of nearly full contraction.
- Hip flexors are among the tightest muscles in the human body, partly because most people spend most of their lives sitting.
■ Stretch after workouts. Stretching muscles you've just trained encourages growth.
■ Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds. You'll force the muscles to relax.
■ Stretch chronically tight areas often. Most people have tight hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors.
■ Stretch the spinal column between sets of compressive exercises such as squats and overhead presses.* Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com