Almost everyone to some extent knows and understands the importance of stretching, especially in bodybuilding but still don’t do it. Stretching is one of the most overlooked aspects of training and most people treat it as accessory work.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on fitness and bodybuilding athletes and the benefits of stretching for them. Many people think stretching is only for yoga practitioners and does nothing for athletes.
The stretching exercises athletes perform before, during and after workouts are meant to stretch the connective tissues which surround the muscles. These connective tissues are responsible for holding the muscles together and are the resistance that stops the muscles from expanding.
How Connective Tissues Work
The connective tissues form the fascia which tightly hugs and acts as a wall around the muscles. These walls are meant to stop the muscles from deforming while you go about doing your work.
While the fascia does a great job of keeping the muscles together, it acts as a hindrance for bodybuilders who want their muscles to grow bigger. The pump you get during a workout is your muscle tissues pushing against the fascia because of the blood which enters into the muscles and gives you a tight feeling.
Benefits of Stretching
While you could stretch at any time throughout the day, the best time for an athlete to stretch is during the workouts. Stretching after a workout is a great way to end your training and can help with recovery.
Before a Workout
Stretching before a workout won’t do a lot for you and is only helpful in warming up the muscles. You don’t have to stretch out all the muscles before your workout. Stretching only the target muscles is enough to make the most of your workouts.
During a Workout
Stretching during training can be incredibly effective for muscle growth. Posing and stretching after a working set helps in building a mind-muscle connection which combined with visualization techniques can improve the shape of your muscles.
Stretching in between sets also expands the fascia and pulls the connective tissue and muscles apart which enhances muscle separation and definition.
After a Workout
At the end of a good workout, your muscles should be filled with blood and lactic acid and should be feeling tight and pumped. Post-workout is a great time to stretch as the connective tissue is already being stretched by the excess blood in your muscles. Manually stretching the muscles at this point increases the muscle fiber growth potential.
Types of Stretching
Active stretching involves using weights as resistance in the exercises which work the muscles in the fully stretched range of motion. To emphasize the stretch in these exercises, you need to hold the weights at the bottom of the movement for a couple of seconds.
Some examples of active stretching are dumbbell pullovers, flyes for chest, preacher curls for biceps, barbell lunges for quads, barbell stiff-legged deadlifts for the hamstrings, and standing calf raises for the calves.
Static stretching is the traditional form of stretching which most people are familiar with. In static stretching, you use your own bodyweight to stretch the muscles. You stretch your muscles to a point of discomfort and hold the position for 30-60 seconds.
For example, to stretch your hamstrings, maintain a slight bend in your knees and touch your toes with your fingers. Hold the position until the discomfort in your hams reduces. Make sure you don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning as there are high chances of muscle pulls and tears.
Stretching in between sets takes no extra time and stretching after a workout can take 5-10 minutes. The benefits you’ll reap will far outweigh the time you’ll be putting in. We encourage everyone to incorporate stretching into their training routines.
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*Header image courtesy of Envato Elements.