If you are going to add stretching to your routine it can’t be half way. You have to set aside time for it and dedicate yourself to it the way you’ve dedicated yourself to other aspects of your physical fitness. And while the benefits of doing chest or bicep exercises might be readily apparent, the benefits of stretching are less obvious. Though nevertheless, there’s no denying the positive results that adding several stretches to your routine can bring.
To begin with stretching will improve your athletic performance. We’re not talking miracles here, but by routinely stretching all your major muscle groups, day in and day out until you’ve increased the length of stretch you are perfectly comfortable with, then you will notice a bump in performance especially when it comes to fluid and repetitive tasks like running or pushups.
The next benefit that is less apparent than a six pack is a reduction in activity based injuries. There are some people who disagree about the power of stretching to help your body to heal and ward off injury. This is largely because it’s difficult to discover the number of injuries that could have been prevented in an active group over time. But by and large most experts maintain that stretching will decrease the incidence of injury and improve performance.
But to reap the benefits of adding a stretch routine to your conditioning program there are certain things to stay away from. The first is that stretching is a fluid and sustained action which maintains a firm, but gentle pressure on your targeted muscle. This means that it’s not an occasion to push beyond your limit as sometimes there is a cause for in either strength or cardiovascular training.
You can push yourself too far when you stretch. Pain is not a good sign, and if you’ve reached a threshold where it hurts, then you are damaging yourself. You are not actually conditioning your muscles at this point, you are just punishing yourself. Stop. “No pain, no gain” may be a maxim to abide in some cases, but in this activity pain is loss. You still want to push yourself, but there is a subtleness to the pushing here that doesn’t require pain.
In this same vein, though a bit separate, don’t bounce or put any momentum into your stretches. Stretching is a prolonged activity that shows benefits over time, it’s not a contest to see if you can place your hands flat on the floor in quick bursts, or to see how far behind your back you can reach your hands. You will improve performance better by moving slowly and methodically.
What matters is holding positions for prolonged periods of time in a relaxed state while breathing-in properly. This is one of the hardest aspects most men encounter when they first begin stretching. It’s that the mind state required to stretch is so different from how we think about our normal training program. In this way stretching is more like meditation. Move slowly and relax. You are pushing your muscles in their most vulnerable areas; don’t push too hard or too fast. And take slow and deep breaths, your muscles are slowly working.
Stretching will bring benefits to your health and muscle fitness, you just have to give it the time and effort of an actual workout. If you look at it like a warm up instead of an integral part of your regimen then chances are good you won’t stretch in the right way. Instead, you’ll look to get through to the real workout. But stretching is the real workout. Treat it like one, and you will see the same level of benefit as you’d get from your workout.