We all know it’s important to stretch and warm up when it comes to exercise. But when do we do it? Before? After? During? How much stretching do we do? How long do we warm up? For such an essential part of any exercise program, there sure are a lot of questions surrounding this topic.
I’m going to tell you what works for me. Like I always do. I’ve remained injury free through some very heavy olympic weight training so I like to think my opinion is worth something. The older we get, the more important this topic becomes. Remember we talked about one of the primary reasons we work out? Increased range of motion. Sound familiar? It’s very important to have a full range of motion for your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
As soon as I hit the gym floor I begin with a three minute warm up. There are several good ways to warm up but you should always be mindful of the following:
- Get your heart rate up to get the blood flowing through your body
- Make sure to spend adequate time warming up the muscle groups you will be working by simulating the movements you will be doing, with either no weight or really REALLY light weight
- Do a few slow opening movements to open the joint
For example, on leg day:
- I start by jogging on the spot
- I do some bodyweight squats, side to side squats, sumo squats, lunges, jumping jacks, in and outs, etc, to get the muscles working
- I do large hip rotations, lifting my leg, to open up the hips as they will be involved in every movement I make that day
- I finish by doing high intensity jogging, keeping my knees above my hips
Never stretch cold. We’ve all heard that. I honestly don’t know how true it is. Again, sharing what I know works from personal experience. After my three minute warm up, I do light ten second stretches. Nothing intense here as I don’t want to risk injury before I’ve even started and I know for fact my muscles will loosen up as I workout.
- stretch each main muscle group for ten seconds
- stretch each minor muscle group for ten seconds
- always stretch the core as it’s involved in everything
For example, on leg day:
- I start by holding a low squat
- I then will do a straight leg toe pull
- I then do a runner’s hip flexor stretch
- And/or a standing thigh stretch
- I stretch my calves
- I do some ab twists, maybe some russian twists
- I hold a plank
- I do lower back stretches
DURING THE WORKOUT
It’s imperative during weight training to have a warm up set. This is the first set you do of every exercise using roughly 60% of your max weight. This allows you to focus on your form and breathing, getting your technique perfect, as well as training the muscles for what is about to come. Blood will flow to the area, muscles will start to work while at the same time stretch, and it allows you to really focus on your work sets and fail sets.
My first set on every exercise is a warm up set.
POST WORKOUT STRETCHING
For me, this is the key. I’ve just exhausted myself. My muscles are swollen. I look jacked. It’s the perfect time to stretch. I do the exact same thing as my pre-workout stretch except I hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it once for a total of two reps per stretch. It still amazes me each and every time how good it feels to do a good stretch.
Let me know what works for you. I always enjoy your comments.