Hey everyone, I hope you had a great week and are enjoying this weekend! Last week myself, my fiancé and son, were able to watch the Bacone Wrestling Team (Our Alma Mater) qualify 9 of their wrestlers to the National tournament! It was actually pretty awesome to see. We are excited to see them all compete at the National tournament this weekend. In this tournament, I saw a lot of injuries, kids tearing muscles and dislocating joints (wrestling is a brutal sport) and this really made me think about injuries within the gym, primarily how we can prevent it. While we can practice safe workouts and perform heavy movements with a spotter, even if we performed every movement as safely as possible there would still be one key to injury prevention missing, stretching.
If you’re like me then you hate stretching, you probably find it to be time consuming and would much rather spend those 15 minutes of stretching on ab work or cardio. Even knowing better I still struggle to stretch everyday like I should, but I feel the difference in my body when I do finally stretch- and it feels a lot better.
So how does stretching prevent injury?
Well, stretching does one thing, it improves our flexibility. It is extremely important to be flexible not just for our movements in the gym that require flexibility (squats, overhead snatch, etc.) but also to help our range of motion. You see the more flexible we are the farther range of motion we have in our joints. This will be vital to us if we are planning to be on a long-term fitness journey and not just in a fitness phase as I like to call it. With all the tension we place on our muscles through exercise we get that “tight” feeling, this is due to our muscles shortening and in turn becoming tight. When they are tight and called upon for a burst of activity they are unable to fully extend (due to the muscles being short and tight), this puts your body in immediate risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage-I am sure many of the weight lifters can relate to the joint pains.
For example, overly tight hamstrings can cause you to not fully extend your leg or straighten the knee, this will affect your walking and eventually this will affect the kinetic chain (the human bodies movement). When the kinetic chain becomes affected our entire body suffers from it, for example if I pulled a muscle in my right quad (front of the thigh), it then hurts to walk normally, I will then change the way I walk to compensate for the injury. Now my hamstring and calf on the right side is being worked more than normal, this causes my hamstring and calf to become tighter, the tightness in those muscles then causes me to change my walking habits or adjust to a posture that does not aggravate the muscles, eventually this can lead to a more severe injury, all this from an injury that could have been prevented with stretching.
Another way tight muscles can affect your everyday life is when performing sudden movements for example a movement that stretches your muscle at a sudden fast pace, such as running to grab your toddler from running in the street, is likely an injury will occur due to the muscles being short and tight from exercise.
Stretching regularly helps to keep those muscles long, flexible and able to move to their full potential. You will be able to do sudden movements without needing to say, “o my back” or “I think I pulled something” afterwards. Your goals should be long term, fitness and health should not be a phase, it should be a lifelong commitment, stretching is something you should regularly do. Work on keeping your body limber and preventing injury so you can continue this journey throughout your life.
Now that we know how important Stretching is, how do we stretch
For a long time, it was popular belief to stretch before workouts, my coaches preached this to me, I preached it to my clients, but recent studies have shown injuries are actually more likely to occur while stretching when cold.
The reason is the muscle fibers are still in a relaxed state (cold) and not ready for the strain placed on them from stretching, making it likely for an injury such as a pulled muscle to occur during stretching. It is my recommendation to stretch after your workout, the body will be warm, alert and you will be able to stretch the muscles you have just shortened and caused to be tight. If you’re stuck in your pre workout regimen where you stretch before and you absolutely feel the need to stretch before exercising I highly recommend doing dynamic stretches/warmup instead of static stretching.
Dynamic stretches/warmups are movements that get blood flowing to the muscles preparing them to perform, whether its in the gym or within a sport. For example if you were training abs and legs a dynamic warmup would we twisting walking lunges, these movements are preformed at a lower intensity with the idea being to activate the legs and core with this movement. Spend 5-10 minutes performing this warm up and getting the body physically ready while getting your mind mentally ready. For sports such as wrestling and football a dynamic warmup would be movements such as high knees, butt kicks, Cherokees, and cherry pickers these movements prepare the entire body for the stress that will be placed upon them during a game or practice.
If you need ideas for stretching certain body parts check out my YouTube channel by clicking below, subscribe for weekly updated workout tutorials!
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