When it comes to stretching and mobility I am always hollerin at the top of my lungs: IT’S IMPORTANT GUYS.
Muscles and joints require daily regular movements to keep them flexible, increase in strength, keep the neuromuscular junction healthy, rehabilitate injured muscle fibres (which we can’t see) and prevent injury later in life (which is more common than we think). Injury at microscopic level of the muscle fibres can be repaired with regular stretching which delivers blood flow and nutrients needed for recovery. Yes guys, it’s great to start lifting heavy the second you lay your eyes on weights, but take enough time to warm up your precious joints and muscles.
When you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length – sarcomere by sarcomere (the basic building block of muscle fibres at a microscopic level). When the muscle fiber is stretched to it’s full tension, the connective tissue (tissue that connect muscle to bone : ligaments and tendons) take on the remainder slack. When stretching occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.
But not just stretching, warming up the body prior to stretching equally important if not more! Warming up the muscles means to increase blood flow and “wake them up”. Guess what happens when you don’t swarm up before every lift (workout)? Those tiny delicate fibers are more at risk to be extremely injured. Lack of blood flow and “warmth” literally can leave you “cold” and underprepared to preform your best during exercise; leaving the door open for muscle tears. If you’re looking to keep your delicate joints such as knees and shoulders strong then warm them up before you start anything! Joint health translates to your range of motion and comfort during exercise. Whether you are a lifting beast, cardio bunny or any other working out freak, warm up and stretching will help you achieve your best performance. Speaking about knees and shoulders, here are a joints you must keep in mind!
Here is how I warm up before stretching.
Start Stretching Now!
Shoulders are one of the most ignored and forgotten areas to warm up and stretch…until a small injury comes along. Deltoids (shoulder muscles), which are small relative to surrounding larger muscle groups, are always at work carrying out pushing, pulling raising and lowering movements of our arms. Connective tissue and muscle fibers on and around the scapula (shoulder blades) are a common area of tension and injury leading to pain in head, neck and upper back areas. Immobility of this muscle group leads to prolonged and serious back pain.
The shoulder muscles connect the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder blad (scapula) through connective tissue and joints. This connection of two major bones is called the rotator cuff.
We have three specific deltoids : front, side and rear as seen below:
Seeing the location of the muscle and the connection, now you can understand the importance of shoulder health, cuff mobility and being able to move through complete range of motions. Importantly, proper shoulder joint and rotator cuff health improves your posture. Here are MUST DO warm up / stretches for your shoulder :
Rotator Cuff Warm Up: 15 to 20 reps x 3
- External Rotation – standing up with band or lying down (with very light weight)
Deltoids warm up : use no weight / very light weight and do 20 to 25 reps x 3
- side raises
- front raises
- reverse flies
Gluteus and Hips
For toned legs, butt, hips and waist; it’s necessary to increase hip mobility and gluteus (butt) stretch. The hip and lower back holds several important nerves and connective tissue to mobilise the entire lower body – the smooth functioning of which determine your even your knee and feet health. Especially for lifters who love deadlifting and squatting, your hips and gluteus need to be active. Gluteus muscles are considered a part of our core muscles thus proving their need to be at their best.
The pelvic bone (hip bone) is a foundation of our skeletal system, containing more than 20 muscles that make up the hips. It is responsible for stabilizing your pelvis, moving your legs from side to side, and shortening to draw your knees.
- the frog
- the pigeon
- Supine Adductor Stretch with Strap
- Supine Lateral Hip Opening
- Seated Fourth Position Hip Stretch
Don’t forget about your booty. The gluteus contain three muscles and need to be “alive” to keep your posture straight and preform well during exercise. Most people have a hard time lifting heavy on leg days due to the inactive gluteus muscles. It’s not a secret anymore, for an amazing lower body, improvement squatting and deadlifting you MUST ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTEUS. Click here for gluteus activation.
Keep in mind…
Stretching causes tension in the connective tissue which can rip / tear if overstretched (injury!) Always keep in mind to increase tension slow and easy, and stop once you feel the threshold. This is no reason to fear stretching. Warm up correctly, stretch slowly, drink a lot of water and keep getting stronger!