Updated: Sep 22, 2019
This is going to be part of our mini-series on warming up. I know it’s something you don’t want to do, you want to just get into the thick of it right? All psyched up to do some serious sweating, then some annoying person on a blog tells you that you should be warming up… what an annoying little guy.
That being said, it is SO important. You’ve got to do it to not let yourself get injured! Give yourself the best chance. This is even more important if you’re just starting out… your body will not be used to any of the exercises.
As I have mentioned in my post about injuries, stretching will save you so much more time than it takes up, and that is going to be the topic of my first in this mini-series.
When do I do the stretches?
You might think that this is a very obvious one - at the start, right? Well actually no, not just at the start. You want to do some at the end as well to prevent muscles stiffening and increase flexibility. Ideally, you want to do some dynamic movements first which just loosen up the body, and then do some stretches for the warm up. Then once you’ve finished your main lifts, do some stretches for the cool down.
How long should I hold the stretch?
For the warm up, you only want to be holding the stretch for around 8 to 10 seconds. It is just to get them slightly loosened and blood flow increased at this stage. You don’t want to be overstretching them for flexibility before you’ve done the workouts.
For the cool down, you want to stretch the muscles for a longer period of time – around 15 - 20 seconds. It’s shown that at this point flexibility is increased. At this stage, as a beginner, I would suggest just doing static stretches. This means hold the stretch at mid-tension and just keep it at that tension for the whole time. There are more advances stretches which I will cover off in a later blog post.
What should I stretch?
You should be stretching the muscles you’ll be using in the workout. If you’re doing a full body workout, then stretch all the main muscles! If you’re only doing a lower body workout, then there isn’t a great lot of benefit in stretching the upper body, but a hell of a lot of benefit to stretching the lower body.
Can I skip the stretches if I’m short on time?
I think you know the answer to this one… NO. Always stretch the muscles you are going to use. If you are that short on time, then you can consider reducing your rest periods in the workout to make up some of that valuable time.
I’m only going for a jog, should I stretch?
Yes. People often have running injuries. Don’t think that just because it’s cardio its not going to put a strain on your muscles and tendons. Stretching is still essential. Speaking as someone who has had many injuries in the past from running (before I started to teach myself about correct fitness training) you want to avoid those injuries just as much as the weight lifting ones!