Today’s article is all about stretching. Do you get enough of it; are you doing it properly; and are you fully aware of the health benefits if you are or aren’t stretching? We will answer all of those questions plus many more; so stick with me and you will have muscles too!
As a philosophy, i view stretching as of high importance and recommend doing it DAILY! Some of you take prescribed medicine; some of you even have your once a day Tylenol; if its that easy to do once a day why aren’t we all stretching? Stretching alone increases blood-flow and circulation throughout the entire body, giving you increased energy and alertness, increased metabolism, and also a you just feel darn great afterwards! If you’re not going to do lift weights, swim, or have some sort of activity level; id jump on the yoga bandwagon STAT!
The first scriptural evidence of controlled posing & breathing dates back to 1000-800 BC. Yoga is very ancient, but also extremely potent to say the least. The asian culture thrives on yoga and tai chi, as they also have the highest longevity; any correlation? YES! As an athlete in track and field growing up, we are taught to stretch before and after every practice (to prevent any type of pre-race injury or heavy post practice soreness) and i can agree with that idea 100%. But in weight lifting, i have read on multiple accounts to not stretch before so because the muscle is already contracted, giving you a strength advantage off the gun. Personally, im a BIG stretcher, and anyone that knows my gym routine well enough knows that i stretch in the dry sauna religiously every morning (pre workout), after every work out (am & pm), and even through out the day no matter if im in line, at lunch, or in class (theres always time to stretch in my book). Stretching is therapy to myself, and my achey body; and I am a firm believer in the art of as well. So whether to tell you to stretch before your workout, i will leave it up to you or depending on you feel, but in my experience, YES, DO IT!
Stretching will only lessen the chances of any type muscle strain, rip, or tear along the way but will not PREVENT injury; and if you don’t like the thought of injury, you shouldn’t be active. Post workout, I am all in as well; as stretching the muscle after you finish only heightens the chance of a full, speedy, and healthy recovery, with minimal soreness the following day (if any), and gives your body a chance to recover from the onslaught of strain you just put before it. If you’re not stretching daily (or hitting legs), i don’t know what you are doing! Proper blood and nutrition circulation have a high factor of success when you let your body breathe. Not to mention the readers who are stuck in a desk job all day; with joints, back, wrists, and posture all suffering, stretching is your savior, and is practically essential to your own well-being. Bruce Lee had the highest importance on stretching, and with his name backing alone do we dare question its credibility? Your body needs to be warm, and primed before putting maximal strain on the muscles, joints, and tendons; and if it isn’t, we’ve all seen the grimace of a torn acal mcl, IT band, quad, hammy, or even achilles. My father, (53), is a pretty big dude, walking at 6’2 & 240lbs, retired military special forces instructor, gym-maniac; you could say he was larger-than-life growing up. As long as i can remember he’s always been in the gym, smashing hulk-sized weight, and was always teaching me his technique and method so that one day, i could be as beastly and a monster in the gym.
Now that day has come, and i have put to use all he’s given, but the only thing lacking from his arsenal of power is the STRETCH MENTALITY (which he praises me for). My father had never gotten into the habit of stretching, taught it to me (thank god for school athletics), nor has followed any type of regimental stretching pre, or post workout; which leads me to why his body is 60%+ disabled, is living in constant agony, soreness, and tension (total body), has had more operations than fingers, and now has a permanent limp when walking; and no its not a “pimp-walk”. I would associate all of these ailments and symptoms alone with not tending your body properly after you put it thru the ringer and then some (which can be verified by himself during our last visit in which he stated he’s never stretched nor believed in it; disclaimer).
In my world, stretching in the dry sauna is a favorite tool of mine. Not only does it allow you to go beyond your normal stretch limits (allowing your body to be primed, loose, and warm faster), you also get a decent workout while your clearing your body. Yes, i said workout; whoever said stretching isn’t a workout surely hasn’t had a yoga or pilates class. The dry sauna alone can burn 600+ calories an hour (depending on individual), and when combined with stretching the rate of work is only amplified. Hot Yoga isn’t new, but it is to us stateside, and those who have done it are either highly addicted, or completely turned off (but i would put my money on the addicts). Why is hot yoga better than regular yoga you ask? Its still yoga, with the same yoga positions and techniques, but the fact that you’re in a much more heated environment which allows for greater work output by our bodies, and more muscle elasticity gives hot yoga the W-I-N. When imagining your body, imagine your muscles as rubber-bands.
The rubber band which has been left outside over time, with no human interaction to stretch it or keep it malleable, will instantly snap or sometimes even break upon first picking up and stretching. But the nice rubber band, which has been tended, lubed (fish oil), and is active daily, has the energy of a new-born and seems to stretch limitless, and endless, without hesitation. The same applies to our bodies. If you don’t keep them elastic, and in good health, they too will snap, tear, or crumble. Stretching is injury prevention, and health protection. It is safe to do any time of day, any where, at any level (strenuous or light). I recommend it upon waking up, pre-workout, post-workout, mid-day, and when that extra boost of energy is crucial to your own success, you cant ever go wrong with a good stretch. No one has ever died from stretching, so do it and do it often! If you want to live in the most equilibrium state possible, keep your body and mind aligned properly.
Stretch Muscles Not Truth:
Toe Touch (hamstring) (stiff-leg): middle 30sec > right leg over left 30sec > left over right 30sec
Butterfly (glute/ hamstring/ groin) : 30sec legs closest to you > 30sec legs further out (working different area of glute)
Quad pull: 30sec each leg
Standing calf stretch: push down each side 30sec
Pretzel: sitting, cross one leg over the other at a bend and one stiff to stretch the lower lumbar/ back 30sec each side
Arm crossover front (back/ delt): 30sec each side
Arm behind head (tricep): 30sec each
Arm pull (behind) (shoulder/ trap) – 30sec each
Hang: from a door way, or pull-up bar and get the last of it hitting your back, chest, core, and hip flexors
**Don’t forget the *small things ie: fingers, neck, wrist, forearms, ankles are just as important as chest, back and legs. (Without the firing pin (even though so small and worthless looking) its still a MAJOR element and the firearm will not shoot with out it. Apply this to your body when stretching the *small things)
IF YOUR SORENESS OUTWEIGHS THAT OF CONSTANT STRETCHING, MAYBE ITS TIME FOR A MASSAGE.