Succeeding in the gym is all about hard work and consistency. Finding the perfect workout plan and sticking to it is key to obtaining your fitness goals. However, many gym goers fail to use one technique that can increase their level of fitness and help keep them from sustaining injuries…..stretching. Here are the basics of pre-workout stretching and how to add it to your gym routine safely.
The benefits of pre-workout stretching cannot be overstated. Weight lifters and bodybuilders who use stretching techniques find they are:
- Less sore after a workout
- More flexible
People who take the time to stretch before the gym also find they have increased range-of-motion in their joints, which helps decrease injuries and improves posture for a more pleasing appearance.
There are several different types of stretching exercises that you can use to gain health benefits. Some of the most commonly used in the gym are:
- Dynamic stretching
- Static stretching
- Active stretching
When you begin a stretching routine, it is best to keep it simple and start with static stretching. As you become familiar with how your body responds to stretching exercises and you increase your fitness level, you can incorporate other types of stretches. Below are some static stretching moves that are great starter exercises because they are quick and easy.
This exercise will get the muscles in your neck warmed-up before your workout. To perform this move:
- Stand and place both hands on the back of your head
- Slowly use your hands to bring your head down, tucking your chin toward your chest
- Once you reach your limit of flexibility, hold the stretch for 20 seconds
- Repeat 5 times
This is an upper back stretch that will improve mobility and flexibility.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
- Clasp your fingers together and raise your arms out in front of your body
- Hold until you feel a stretch in your mid-back
- Lower and repeat 5 times
This is a standing hamstring stretch designed to increase blood flow to the back of your thighs. Be sure to keep this movement slow and controlled. Stop the stretch when you feel a tug on your muscles but before the point of pain.
- Stand with your feet together
- Bend from your waist towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings
- Grasp the back of your calves or ankles to hold the move for a count of 20
- Slow raise your body to standing and repeat 5 times
The lying quadriceps stretch is a staple in pre-workout stretching routines. Be sure to listen to your body when performing this static stretch.
- Lie on your stomach
- Place your head on your right hand and reach behind your body with the left hand and grab your leg or ankle
- Pull your leg closer to your body, toward your buttocks slowly
- Stop when you feel a good stretch and hold for a count of 10
- Repeat 5 times then alternate legs
The above series of static stretches will warm-up the large muscle groups in your body before a workout. As your fitness level increases, you can also target specific joints such as the shoulders, knees, and ankles. Performing these moves correctly is key to reaping the benefits of pre-workout stretching. Note: Never stretch to the point of sharp pain or use jerking movements.