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There are hundreds upon thousands of stretches that you can choose prior to your work out. In this article, we are going to give you five ways to choose the best ones for you.
1. Is it dynamic?
Research has shown, if we move in and out of a stretch it is much more effective than prolonged holds of a movement. With dynamic stretching, our muscles are being primed to the workout ahead. To simplify, our workout consists of repetitions of movements, so should our stretching. In the first few reps your body will be stiffer, so start with small reps and then increase based on how your body feels. Typically 10 reps are sufficient.
2. Does it challenge all planes of motion?
Our body is made to move forward and back, side to side, and with rotation. In order for our bodies to perform better, and feel better, we want to challenge all of these planes of motion with our stretch. Doing a hamstring stretch? Move your chest forward and beck 10 times, then in the same position rotate your foot left and right like a windshield wiper 10 times, then shimmy your hips left and right to look silly but stretch the inner and outer fibers of that muscle groups. Moving in all planes of motion will not only help you reduce risk of injury, but will help you better support your joints, and support more difficult types of lifts. You typically won’t see people doing this in the gym, but, be the change you wish to see in the gym and your body.
3. Does the speed of this stretch equal the speed of the exercise routine for the day?
If you were going to be doing a fast paced work out, make sure that you increase the speed of your stretching movements. If you are doing a slower lifting day, then move your stretches nice and slow.
4. Does the stretch match the workout?
If you are doing a chest and arm day I would make sure that you are not only doing hamstring and glute stretches. There are exceptions to the rule of course. If you are rehabbing an injury continue stretches as prescribed by your PT. I suggest thoracic mobility and shoulder external rotation stretching with any gym day that incorporates a barbell so that the bar rests easy on your upper back without any undue stress on your elbow, low back, or neck.
5. Most importantly! How does it make your body feel?
If you’re having discomfort with a stretch, try making that range of motion you are moving in smaller. If that doesn’t work, then look in a mirror and make sure your body mechanics look right. If that still doesn’t work then try a different stretch but for the same muscle group. YouTube is a great resource with people explaining the movement intended. With anything on the internet, viewer beware and make sure that what they are asking you to do makes sense.