I recently visited the chiropractor’s office because I had lower back pain, which I thought was brought on from sitting in my office chair 8 hours a day. Well, after the chiropractor analysed what was wrong she noticed my hips were slightly misaligned, she said it could be due to a tight muscle, which was probably in my legs, boy was she right!
She said the most common area for tightness is the hamstrings, so she started stretching and massaging mine. She started with the left hamstring, which was fine, then moved to the right, at that point I almost jumped from the mat. It was so painful and she informed me it was very tight, when she asked do you stretch I said yes, of course.
What I didn’t realise is that I don’t stretch enough, so I decided to create this post to help others understand the importance of stretching.
Here is why you should stretch
Stretching is an absolutely crucial part to proper weight training, whether you are a bodybuilder, power lifter or just a recreational lifter, you must stretch. Stretching loosens you up, increases your range of motion and will reduce the chance of injury. Stretching also forces blood into the muscles and has been shown to help reduce soreness, which is often felt the day after lifting weights. Finally, stretching invigorates the circulatory, respiratory and neuromuscular systems.
There are different ways to stretch, but the one I’m talking about is active stretching. Active stretching is when you hold a position for a number of seconds (typically 30 seconds or more), using only your own body with no outside forces. For example, bringing your right foot towards your buttocks and holding for 45 second to stretch your quadriceps.
You can of course use other stretching methods, such as passive stretching: whereby you use an exterior object, such as another person or wall/doorway. There is also dynamic stretching, whereby you move body parts slowly, performing an exercise and gradually getting faster, such as bodyweight lunges.
The type of stretch you perform is down to personal preference, I prefer active stretching as I do this after my workouts, plus it helps me cool down after a heavy training session.
How Often Should You Stretch
At first I thought I stretched enough, I would do a 5 minute stretch preceding my workouts, thinking this was plenty. I was wrong; I should have been stretching between 10-15 minutes per day, 3-4 times per week. The other important aspect was how long to hold a stretch, previously I would hold a stretch for about 20-30 seconds, when I told my Chiropractor she informed me to hold a stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Now I stretch almost every day, holding each stretch for about 45 seconds. Since visiting the Chiropractor she says my hamstring is much better. I also noticed my squat strength has significantly improved and my posture is much better. As for my lower back, the pain has certainly eased but this is still a work in progress.
I was curious to find out if you stretch, if you do, is it several times per day, do you stretch every major muscle group, do you find stretching has really helped with your lifting?