Do You Even Stretch Bro? Stretching and the gym.

Strength and conditioning training is an important part of physical fitness and for some it can be a lifestyle. Whether you want to be the next Ronnie Coleman, get shredded in time for Stereo or simply see some gains – you should always remember the importance of stretching and flexibility when working out. Here are the reasons why:

– Weight lifting can make you less flexible.

Now this one shouldn’t be a problem if you lift with proper form and technique. However, if the full range of motion isn’t achieved when lifting weights (for example, when bench pressing with a bar) then you aren’t activating the whole muscle. This will cause it to shorten and make you less flexible and feel more stiff. Good technique and regular stretching will fix this.

Photo Credit: Bob.Fornal via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Bob.Fornal via Compfight cc

– Stretching can increase gains.

This can happen in two ways:
Firstly, research (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20124795) has shown that novice and beginner lifters who complete static stretching separate to a workout can see a higher percentage gain in strength. This occurs because of morphological changes in the musculature, muscle length and muscle hypertrophy.

For more experienced lifters, stretching during a workout can see exponential increase in muscle growth. This has to do with the tough connective tissue known as fascia that encases each muscle. Increased blood flow to a muscle during a particular weight lifting exercise will put extra pressure on this fascia tissue when you stretch directly after a set. This added pressure will help stretch the fascia further, allowing your muscles more room to grow.

Beginner or experienced? Homer or McBain? Stretching is good for you both!

– Flexibility and stretching means less risk of injury

Flexibility is something that has to be maintained with regular stretching. If you stop stretching and focus only on strength training then you risk becoming less flexible and causing injury. You might not feel a difference when you’re training until one day your tight hamstring and hips put too much strain on your back and you injure yourself. A bad injury can stop you from training for a long time, so stretching each day will mean you can keep progressing and keep improving.