Our bodies crave proper balance and flexibility, but most of us leave little time before and after a workout to actually help our bodies recover properly. We’re talking about the importance of stretching. And stretching is not just for runners or other cardio fanatics, it can greatly improve lifting ability, posture and overall performance.
Stretching increases blood flow, boosts oxygen levels and helps deliver nutrients to your muscles to shorten the recovery time. It also removes metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide, ammonia and uric acid from your body.
Each week, our muscles are taxed with rep after rep, sets after sets and sometimes loaded with heavy weights that can strain the body. If muscles are overloaded, it can cause stress on joints and connective tissue issues as well; this is why it’s so important to stretch a few times a week.
For you squatters, here’s something interesting for you to keep in mind: tight hamstrings aren’t holding you back when performing the perfect squat, it’s the muscles surrounding the hamstrings that need extra stretching, such as the hip flexors. Flex these out a few times a week and your range of motion may improve. Tibialis anterior muscles can be too loose, causing you to have tight calves and as a result, not be able to drop your heels during squats and lunges. Try working on stretching out your calf muscles with an up and down motion, on the balls of your feet.
Now for those of you who feel that one side of your body is tighter than the other. Don’t just stretch both sides evenly…otherwise that one side will remain tighter than its partner. If one side is tighter, stretch out the tighter one with more focus so they eventually even out.
Did you know that there are muscles you should focus a stretch on and others that are not as important, here’s a few:
- Traps: need more attention. They surround vital nerves that can be tight and stiff and can lead to overcompensation in your rotator cuff muscles that aren’t active.
- Chest: need attention too. Tight pecs can pull your shoulders out of position and can cause posture issues and unnecessary joint stress.
- Lower Back: much less attention. You don’t want to put the lower back into a position where it gets twisted the wrong way.
- Glutes and Hamstrings: less. It’s not these guys that need the focus, rather their surrounding hip flexors and fibers that need extra love.
- Groin/Inner Thigh Musculature: more. A bilateral imbalance can lead to tightness and hip tilting which can lead to one side being longer than the other.
- Calves: more. Without stretching calves, you have a greater chance of suffering from Achilles tendonitis, bursitis and other heel inflammation issues.