It’s been three months, you’ve been hitting the gym routinely and you can’t see or feel any difference in your physique. So what you do is search the internet for some magical new workout routine that will help break this plateau; some possible workout secret that’s been posted to a blog that has somehow eluded you all these years. Stop what you’re doing now and pay attention. What I am about to show you may not seem exciting or interesting, but could be the one aspect standing between you and making progress in the gym.
I am about to say a word that you have heard before but haven’t really paid attention to. That word is stretching. I am not talking about the stretching your grandparents used to do; I am talking about dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching before a workout has many benefits such as increased flexibility and range of motion, improved cardiovascular capacity and core strength, and yes even increased strength and power. The static stretching you do is fine after a workout, but before a workout it actually has been proven to decrease muscle performance. On the other hand, dynamic stretching before a workout has been proven to improve muscle performance.
If you are an athlete, pretend to be one, or just want to look good in the mirror, it is essential that dynamic stretching be a part of your workout routine. Your workout should be divided into 4 phases:
Phase 1: Active warm-up (example: 5-10 minutes on an elliptical machine)
Phase 2: Dynamic stretch (example: use Tee Major’s excellent routine)
Phase 3: Workout routine
Phase 4: Static stretching (example: use BuiltLean.com’s routine)
So let’s focus in on Phase 2. Ideally, a dynamic stretch routine should take about 10-15 minutes. However, there is no harm in taking 15 minutes or longer to do dynamic stretching. Tee Majors dynamic stretch routine describes many examples of exercises, but I’ll describe a couple below for you diehards who are on your way to the gym for a tough leg workout.
Monster walks Stand in place with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your knee straight, kick your left leg up reaching with your right arm out to meet it as you simultaneously take a step forward. As soon as your left foot touches the floor, take two steps and repeat the movement with your right leg and left arm. Alternate back and forth.
Spiderman with extension Drop into a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders. Drive your right foot up and place it flat on the ground outside your hand. Rock back onto the heel of your right foot and elevate your toes into the air. Walk your hands forward until you are back in a push up position and repeat on the opposite side.
There you have it, two quick examples of dynamic stretches you can incorporate in your workout routine today.
Editors Note: This is a contribution written by John Accardi.
A lot of guys think that adding a daily stretching routine to their workout is a waste of time. This is anything but the truth! Stretching for only 5-10 minutes a day can give you some amazing benefits that will improve your workouts and your health.
Neglecting stretching is just setting you up for injury and slower recovery. It is important we keep our muscles long, lean and limber.
1. Greater Strength
Stretching increases strength by improving circulation and blood flow to the muscles. This not only provides greater nutrients to every muscle of the body but helps those muscles recover faster in between workouts. The increased blood flow helps prevent soreness and muscles fatigue during recovery periods and allows for more frequent high-intensity workouts.
2. More Flexibility
Stretching is the most effective way to improve flexibility. As the body ages, muscles shorten and tighten. This decreases range of motion, and increases the chance of tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue injuries. Flexibility also helps with fluid motion in athletic performance. Watch out not to over stretch though – overly flexible muscles are injury prone and give you a sloppiness when moving. You can see this sometimes in people who overdo it with Yoga.
3. Good for Circulation
Lengthening and loosening the muscles helps dramatically with circulation. Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.
4. Reduced Stress
Stretching reduces stress through loosening the muscles and relieving built up tension. It also releases endorphins in the brain that can cause a feeling of wellbeing and calmness. It is also thought that stretching reduces stress through a mechanism similar to meditation or yoga in that it promotes a state of mindfulness. This is especially true for the muscles around your neck and shoulders – stretch these out in the evening for a good nights sleep.
5. Increased Range of Motion
An increased range of motion in the joints has many benefits and stretching is the best way to achieve this. It improves balance which decreases risk of injury and improves athletic performance. It also allows for more complete workouts, whether it be swimming, jogging, or lifting, an increased range of motion will allow for better form and complete muscle recruitment.
You have all seen people with tight hunched up postures. This comes from a lack of stretching and normally overdoing it with weight training or sitting at desks hunched over all day. Be sure to give yourself a good stretch, breathing into the muscle you’re stretching to further increase the stretch.
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