A Lean Life

A Stretching Routine to Improve Flexibility, Range of Motion, and Prevent Injury

Stretching RoutinesHow important is a consistent stretching routine?

Did you know that 80% of adults will have lower back pain at some point in their life?  And this is just the beginning, as most adults will have more body aches and pains than just the lower back.

How can you avoid this muscle pain and injury that will afflict so many adults in their life?

A great stretching routine is a very effective and simple way to greatly reduce, or even eliminate, joint and muscle problems in your life.

There are many powerful benefits to following a consistent stretching routines:

  • Improves your posture by reducing muscle tightness
  • Greatly reduces the risk of injury in your daily life, as your muscles will become long and supple
  • Post-workout stretching will reduce muscle soreness and improve your recovery time
  • Increases your flexibility which will improve your workouts by giving you more range of motion
  • Reduces muscle tension and improves overall circulation
  • Your body will feel better overall as your muscles will be relaxed and supple

A simple but powerful stretching routine is the foundation of an elite fitness plan, and the routines within this site are:

  • Simple
  • Safe
  • Extremely proven and effective
  • Respectful of your busy schedule! (they only take 3 to 5 minutes per workout)

Stretching Basics

Stretching RoutineThere are two main types of stretching:

  • Static stretching
  • Dynamic stretching

Static stretching involves stretching a muscle or joint by using a fixed object (wall, chair, pole, etc) as resistance.  You stretch the muscle as far as you can until you feel slight discomfort, and then hold the position for 30 seconds.  Static stretching is a controlled and stable movement, without fluid motion.

caution  Static stretching is best used post-workout when the muscles are fully warm.

Dynamic stretching involves motion, usually in circular, rotating, bending, or continuous back-and-forth movements. It is critical to never bounce or jerk the motion, as this will lead to joint or muscle injury. Dynamic stretching should start very slowly and then progress to a full range of motion.

Dynamic stretching is best used pre-workout, when the muscles are slowly warming up.

Both static and dynamic stretching are vital to a complete and well-rounded stretching routine. They will improve your workouts, as well as your flexibility and overall well-being.

No matter the stretch you are doing, keep in mind these important basics:

  • Always maintain good posture
  • Focus on proper breathing (inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth)
  • Really focus on the muscle(s) you are stretching – feel the stretch
  • Never jerk or bounce
  • Only start a stretching routine when your muscles are warmed up (2 minutes of cardio)
  • Never stretch to a point of pain, only slight discomfort

How and When to Stretch for your Workout Routine

The scientific and research evidence as to when you should stretch, pre- or post-workout, has changed in the past 20 years. The old school of thought was static stretching before workouts. The modern approach is focused more on dynamic stretching pre-workout, and static stretching post-workout.

The approach we take on this site, 30on3 (30 minutes workouts – 3x a week), is a combination of each, but mainly modern (as follows):

Pre-Workout

1) Warm-up – 2 minutes

Warm-up your muscles and body for 2 minutes by doing some quick cardio:

  • Hopping/Bouncing in place
  • Jogging in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • Stationary Bike

This warms the muscles, gets the blood flowing (circulation), and increases the heart rate.

Include in this warm-up phase some “shadow” workout routines. If doing chest routines that day, then simulate doing a bench press back and forth with your arms in a standing position. If working biceps, then simulate doing curls to stretch the biceps. Make sure the motions are controlled and not jerky.

Remember, slow and controlled, but you do want to feel the stretch.

2) Dynamic stretch – 2 minutes

Dynamic stretches are generally performed pre-workout, and usually include full-body movements. You want to engage all of your muscle groups in a slow and controlled motion, gradually increasing the intensity. Some dynamic stretches to prepare you for your workout:

  • Arm rotations
  • Neck rotations
  • Shoulder rotations
  • Torso rotations and bends
  • Squats
  • Lunges

3) Light Static stretch – 1 minute

Static stretches are very slow and controlled, and focus on the muscle groups for your intended workout. For these static stretches, do not stretch to the point of any discomfort and do not hold the stretch as you will post-workout.

Your pre-workout stretch is now complete…you are ready to attack your workout routines with intensity and confidence, knowing your muscles are warm and ready.

The most important thing to keep in mind pre-workout…you are not trying to stretch or elongate your muscles for flexibility – you are trying to warm-up your muscles to prepare them for the workout.

Post-Workout

Your muscles are now fully warmed up after a great workout, so it is prime time for a great static stretching routine with all muscle groups to achieve all the benefits listed above.

Neck Stretching Routines – Neck stretches to stretch all muscles in the neck
Back Stretches – There are many muscles in the back – make sure they are supple
Lower Back Stretches – Taking care of the all important lower back
Chest Stretch – Critical to avoiding pulled muscles in the chest and torso
Foot Stretching – Important for cardio workouts to protect the ankles
Achilles Tendon Stretching – Stretching your achilles to improve cardio range of motion
Shoulder Stretches – Prepare your shoulders for upper body workouts
Arms Stretching – Prepare your entire arm for an upper body workout
Biceps Stretch – Prepare biceps to train and grow
Tricep Stretch – Prepare the triceps to train and grow
Leg Stretches – Focus on calves, quads, hamstrings, and pelvis
Calf Stretches – Stretch the calf muscles, which can be vulnerable in jogging
Heel Stretch – Important for cardio workouts
Wrist Stretches – Key to avoiding “tennis elbow” which can put you out for 6 months
Hamstring Stretches – If you ever played high school sports, this is a common muscle injury
Hip Stretch – The hips should always be fully stretched before and after any workout routine

Stretch to Avoid Injury

injury-quadsAn effective stretching routine is the best way to avoid injury.

Several years ago I suffered two very painful and difficult injuries in the same year, a lower back strain and “tennis elbow” in my left elbow.  I was unable to perform any meaningful lean muscle building workouts for nearly six months.  My lower back was so bad at one point that I was essentially bedridden for a week.

I sought treatment from two reputable orthopedic physician centers over several months, and both doctors advised me that the injuries were easily avoidable with proper warm-up and stretching.  The “tennis elbow” was the result of arm workouts without warming up the elbow, forearm, and wrist, and I strained my lower back doing low-pulley rows without a proper stretching and warm-up routine for my back.

I learned a great deal from these two injuries (as well as several others), and I will show you the keys to a proper stretching routine that will become a cornerstone to your overall fitness plan.  I learned these very effective stretching routines during training as an Army Ranger, extensive research, and also during the physical rehabilitation that I underwent to heal from these injuries.

Learn more stretching routines to avoid injury:

  • Muscle injury
  • Lower Back Pain Stretches

Stretching Machines and Equipment

Most stretching routines can be effectively achieved using your own body weight, or some common anchor point (wall, pole, ground, etc).

However, if you want to take your stretches to the next level up, there are machines and equipment that can help you achieve this:

Ball Stretching

Stretching Rack

Hyperextension Machine (Back)

Pulling it All Together to Maximize your Efforts

Your stretching routine is essential to the overall success, and safety, of your fitness plan.

You want to properly prepare your muscles for a workout by performing…

  • 2 minutes of warm-up (jumping jacks or the like)
  • 2 minutes of dynamic stretches
  • 1 minute of light static stretches

This will ensure your muscles are “warm” before you start your resistance training.

Post-workout make sure you do your static stretching, particularly on the muscle groups you just exercised.  This will help with:

  • Recovery time
  • Muscle soreness
  • Building lean muscle in the long run

Most importantly, if you don’t have time in your workout routine to stretch, you will be forced to make time later for doctor’s appointments…it is not a matter of if you will injure yourself, but only a matter of when, and how severe the injury.  So let’s make the time.

The ole’ proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true!  And the benefits of a super-charged stretching routine go way beyond avoiding injury – they will improve your overall wellness.

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