Updated: Jan 25
“I was working out the other day, and I pulled a muscle.” Fairly common words you hear in a lot of conversations. However, this does not have to be an inevitability in your workout by any means. Your muscles are all sorts of knotted up, tight, twisted, shortened etc. before stretching, before warming up, before doing movement prep. When we are about to engage in any physical activity, we must undo the strains of repeated motions or the prolonged lack of motion our day has brought about. The first statement is usually what makes people take prolonged breaks or absences from the fitness goals they have set out for themselves. Here is your chance to begin feeling better to pursue more.
There are various techniques that can be used as part of your warm-up, cool-down, morning, and night-time routines. We will get the chance to explore routines in a later post (big fan of them).
· Static stretching
· Self-Myofascial Release
· Dynamic stretching
· Ballistic Stretching
· Active-Isolated stretching
· PNF Stretching (requires assistance from a licenced and qualified professional a.k.a someone who knows what they are doing).
· Movement Prep – can tie in with Dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching, and even can mimic the actual upcoming movement. The more intense, and the more specific your workout/training, the more you should lean towards these as your warm-up.
The most common understanding of stretching quite often bring about thoughts of static stretching. Although it is a fairly simple method of stretching it is not without its positive effects by any means. It is a method of stretching that helps a lot, to a certain level of intensity in movement (note that static stretching has been shown to reduce strength for up to 10 minutes immediately after, so just leave a little cushion of time after with other activities). It involves holding a stretch in a forcibly lengthened position for a specified period of time. Examples include but are not limited to quadriceps stretch (standing quad stretch), standing calf stretch, heel drop, biceps stretch, pec stretch, cobra pose (not a fan of snakes but this is a good one), overhead triceps stretch, etc. All stretches work most in our favour when the right one is done at the right time. However, we can rejoice because there isn’t only one right time for static stretching. It can be a great part of our morning routine, before bed or night-time routine, great before we do the warm-up on the treadmill or elliptical, which so many seem to flock to. Focus on the muscles that feel the tightest. Pay attention to what you feel isn’t helping you move. Your hip is the usual suspect. It tightens and gives us trouble when we sit too much, stand too much, so pretty much when we don’t think we’re doing anything to it. It is because it is such a central and crucial part of our ability to move about. Our hips are not high maintenance but do require attention, and we better pay attention otherwise our hips will make us. Our glute activation, and knee health, are heavily dependent on our hip’s ability to function efficiently. Fear not, there are a plethora of stretches at the hip’s disposal. We just need to know them. Knee to chest (lying knee hug), knee across the body, child’s pose (does help with a little more than just hips), 90-90 stretch (you will run into a few variations on this one for sure), even a simple prolonged squat hold at maximum depth does wonders (try this one upon getting out of bed in the morning).
So far, we have only discussed static stretching, so now let us take the time and put as much as we can into making sure we stretch whenever needed from here onwards. In next week’s post we will explore Self Myofascial Release and the various tools that are around to help us achieve more ease of being and movement. Yet another that can be part of multiple times of your day. We all hear about foam rollers; however, they are not the only means of Self Myofascial Release. We will explore these in more detail next week at which point you will know the options available to all of us. Till then stretch, and if you hear anyone complain about having pulled a muscle working out, ask them if they stretched. If they don’t believe it is important (kind of what left them with the “pulled muscle” in the first place), and you don’t care to tell them how important it is, send them this link. See you all next week!