Pre-workout stretching? Are you for real? Yes, we are!
If you are a regular reader of Builder, then you should already know the basic rule: we never ever stretch cold muscles. While the rule is correct, we should mention that there are two types of stretching, and while you must avoid one of them before a workout, the other is very much beneficial for you before you hit the weights.
Active, or passive? It does matter!
When it comes to stretching, most people think about passive (or in other words, static) stretching – you know, the one where you start in a position, and you hold that position so you can feel that the target muscle is being stretched, for a relatively long period of time. This type of stretching is very important because the muscles get shortened during weight training, so we have to stretch them out in order to keep their flexibility.
When to do it: after your training, before going to bed
On the other hand, close to zero percent of people are aware of the fact that there is a thing called active (dynamic) stretching beside passive stretching, where the main emphasis is not on holding a specific position. There is a starting point or position (A) from where one must slowly get to an endpoint (B) with controlled movement. In dynamic stretching the movement can be pretty fast (at least compared to static stretching), but of course you must avoid bouncing and fooling around. This is about warmup, preparing your whole body for the workout, not about hardcore training. If you stretch before your workout, you also increase the flexibility of your muscles, and you can also prevent some injuries to occur.
When to do it: before and during your workout
One good example of dynamic stretching is the exercise called inchworm (pictured above).
How to do it: start from standing position, with straight, or slightly bent knees. Touch the ground with your palms, about 10 centimetres away from your toes. Start to crawl forward until you are in the starting point of a regular push up. Slowly crawl back into starting position. Do 10 repetitions before your workout. This exercise does not only warm up your hamstrings but your whole posterior chain including your back and even your shoulders. Try to get your hamstrings be able to stay back at the starting point further and further on each rep.
If you think about it, doing dynamic and active stretching is logical, because with warmup our goal is to increase our temperature with active work, and after a workout recovery and passive activities (just like static stretching) are in focus.
What can you achieve with pre-workout stretching?
Active stretching is like an alarm clock for your muscles.We can "wake them up" with it and we can say: OK, it's time to wake up, here comes the hardcore workout! Unlike passive stretching, active stretching does not cause micro-tears in the muscles, thereby it does not weaken them, which is a pretty important thing before a bodybuilding style workout.
We have some bad news for you: we cannot prevent muscle soreness to happen with either type of stretching.
Last, but not least, we have some tips for you in regards to stretching:
- listen to your breathing while you stretch, do not let yourself be distracted by anything
- when you are stretching, you should not feel pain in your muscles
- stretching should not be very hard
- when you do pre-workout stretches, it shouldn't be longer than 5 to 10 minutes
- when you do post-workout stretches, it shouldn't be too quick (at least 5 to 10 minutes)
All in all, stretching is an underrated, but a very important aspect of fitness, it should be done both before, and after your workouts.
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