How to get lean and stronger

Stretching – How high can you reach?



Stretching for warm-up and flexibility

There is nothing worse than getting a ‘charlie horse’ or ‘pulled hamstring’ from exercising without proper warm-ups. It has happened to me on more than one occasion – from a mild condition to severe one. The importance of a good warmup or stretching routine can’t be emphasized enough. One of the first steps in getting your body ready for HIIT weight training is getting the muscles loosened.

What will stretching do for you?

Stretching will enhance your range of motion, help in preventing injuries, improve your balance and increase blood flow. It can be a way to relieve cramps you might get from sitting in one position for a long time, such as long-distance driving or sitting in front of the old boob tube or at your desk all day.

As we get older this type of exercise becomes even more important especially if you have been inactive for a long time and want to start a HIIT weight training session.

I find that using resistance bands is great for not only strengthening and toning the muscles but also stretching them.

Our balance tends to become skewed after we pass a certain age and stretching regularly will help to prevent this.

And of course, one of the best ways to prevent certain injuries is to primed our bodies by getting proper blood flow and improving the flexibility of our muscles, joints and tendons.

The don’ts of stretching

Timing and the types of stretches are important. From experience I find that stretching certain muscles can be counter-productive. By this I mean that you can weaken a muscle by over-stretching it or stretching a muscle you plan on exercising that day.

For example, if you plan to exercise your legs then stretch them after you have finished doing your leg workout. If you stretch them before they won’t be as strong.

Types of stretching

There are three main types of stretching we can do.

–         Static stretches

–         Ballistics

–         Dynamic stretching

Static stretches are performed by holding the stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds. I recommend doing static stretches each day. It should be done gently with no excessive bouncing. Also try to do these after you are finished your HIIT weight training workout.

Ballistic stretching is done with quick movements such as bouncing when you do toe touches or trunk twists. I don’t recommend this type stretching since it could lead to injuries especially if done incorrectly.

Dynamic stretches are similar to ballistic stretching except that there is no bouncing. A lot of athletes – swimmers, footballers and soccer players – do this type of stretching before games. It is usually done before competition since it increases the blood flow to the muscles. Diabetics should keep this in mind when planning a HIIT session as it will help to reduce cramps and that tingling sensation you get in your hands and feet.

How to do stretches

My exercise routine actually begins from the night before when I put in my mind that I will be performing certain exercises the next day. I visualize myself doing them.  Studies have shown that this can improve your level of performance.

I even picture the clothes I’ll be wearing. I also put a time limit on the amount of activity and where I will be doing it. You would be surprised at how this gets you motivated to take action the next day.

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Each day before I begin, and after my exercise program is completed, I do static and dynamic stretching for about 5 -7 minutes. Depending on the level of your physical condition you might want to spend more or less time at this.

I find that as I get older, I need to do static stretches for longer periods. I also do light stretching between sets of HIIT weight training to keep limber.

Ideally, you should stretch before you start exercising – you don’t necessarily have to wait until you are exercising to stretch. By this I mean you can stretch at any time during the day. Have you ever noticed a dog or cat stretch? They usually do this after getting up from a nap or sitting for a long time. We should do the same thing albeit in a more organized fashion.

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I like to do my stretches by working down my body. By this I mean starting with my neck and working down to my feet. I do neck twists by turning my neck from left to right, pausing at the center for a moment. I also do head tilts by trying to touch my shoulders with my ears. The movement for both of these stretches is left – center – right – center. I do these using static stretches.

Next, I do back, shoulder and chest stretches followed by trunk twist and side stretches. For my legs I do the hamstrings (the back of my legs) and quadriceps (front thighs muscles). These are followed by calf and ankle stretches, and toe flexes.

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When performed correctly, stretching will increase your flexibility and improve your performance. Do them consistently and properly and you will begin to notice how toned and fluid you move.

Because of its importance I will probably do more posts on the subject in the future.


To a healthier you,

Owen Lecky