Stretch your hamstrings it feels good. Stretch your back if you strain it. Loosen up your quads. Stretch before you do any exercise.
Common refrains from most trainers and even more so, those who teach/practice martial arts. I’m here to tell you, stop the madness….
Ok, well don’t stop but maybe we should do it at a different point in our workout.
Stretching doesn’t really make the muscle tissue any longer, it can actually stretch the joint capsule which is bad news!
Stretching is a relaxation technique, you want things to loosen up and that’s fine. But why do you want your muscles to relax just before you plan on using them to lift heavy weights or to run, jump, or kick? A relaxed muscle is not as powerful or as fast or as stable as “un-relaxed” muscle. You might be able to kick a little higher but you won’t be able to generate as much power. You might be able to get a little closer to the bar on a deadlift if you stretch your hammies, but there is a VERY good chance you will pull them or your lower back.
There are better ways to warm up & get things moving. What you really want is to mobilize the joints and activate the muscles prior to using them.
I like to start with some basic joint movements, controlled, head/neck movements, arm circles, elbow circle, hip circles etc. This helps to get the joints moving a bit, pumping fresh lubricating synovial fluid through them
We follow that up with some foam rolling and use other tools to “mash” the muscles which tells the brain to calm down the excess tension in the area being rolled. (LaCrosse balls, the Stick)
After 5 minutes or so of rolling various body parts we’ll move on to mobilization and activation exercise to further warm the tissues and get things moving.
The foam rolling or SMFR (Self-myofascial release) should be done is slow mindful manner. When you find a really painful place yo need to hang out on it, breathe with it and get it to dissipate. In our training each person rolls specific areas based on what we determined needs work through their Functional Movement Screen.
The activation and mobility work is specific to each person in our Private and Semi-Private training and a more generic in our Group Sessions. We focus on the areas 90% of our clients need to combat the effects of sitting all day. Hips, mid and upper back, glute (butt) activation, shoulders etc.
Once we’ve done all that, which typically takes 20 minutes, we’ll start to do more active work to get the heart rate up a little and start to break a sweat. This could be anything from skipping around the room, while dodging Cash who loves to chase after everyone, to crawling on the floor (Cash really likes this since you are on his level 🙂 ) to doing plank jacks, quad press or other bodyweight movements.
Our workout then shifts into strength work with Deadlifts, Squats and other strength moves. We wind up with some “conditioning” using kettlebells, bands or bodyweight to get the heart rate up.
At the end of our sessions we’ll stretch because now is when you want the muscles to relax! Some of our stretches are based on yoga poses such as Child’s Pose, Pigeon Pose, cat/cow etc. but all are done to loosen things up after the workout so you don’t lose mobility or flexibility.
Getting the joints mobile and the muscles activated will help you perform better than any stretching you could possibly do as a warmup!