Warming Up and Stretching
How often do you find that you are running into the gym or rushing to do your workout at home and not giving any time to warming up. The other day I was asked if warming up and stretching were a waste of time since they don’t really help with muscle building and fat loss anyway right?
You got to admit, I think even as a trainer sometimes I just want to jump right into my workout. It’s a real challenge to force yourself to do an adequate warm up and even some stretching before getting into it.
So is there any real value to warming up and stretching before weight training?
Let’s look at it with fresh eyes…
If we look at a biological point of view our muscles are constantly being challenged in a lot of different ways every day and making sure we have the right nutrients in our diets to keep them at top level can be a little difficult at times. Couple this stress, poor sleep or over training and our body reacts by giving us sore muscles as a signal to slow down and change for the better.
This all makes sense doesn’t it? I think sometimes we take for granted how much we put our bodies through every day and just expect everything to go smoothly with regards to getting stronger and losing fat. It’s time to bring a little attention to this matter and take our game plan to a much higher level.
If you look at any professional athlete a warm-up is not just a regular thing before getting into the exercise but it is absolutely essential to success. So why should our mentality be any different. We want to be the best we can be right?
The warming up stage allows our heart to start pumping blood at a faster rate to our entire body and most importantly our muscles. With this greater blood flow, more nutrients are carried to the muscles and more waste products are removed. Staying on this topic most of will notice that without the proper warming up phase we will often get a cramp and this is because the lactic acid build up is too great for our circulatory system to remove it.
So how long of a warm up is long enough? This is a great question to ask and the answer is, long enough that you break a good sweat. I find a 6-7 minute gradual warm up on the treadmill or elliptical trainer is pretty adequate. Just make sure to get to a level which is quite moderate in intensity.
Old school mentality was that stretching should be done as soon as you get into the gym. Then new studies proved that stretching should only be done when your muscles are adequately warmed up. The reason behind this was that for the aforementioned reasons increasing your body temperate allows your muscles to have greater ability to stretch and prevent micro tears from happening.
You can get a pretty good stretching phase in by just using body weight exercises or light dumbbells. This goes especially for the guys reading this, whatever you do, don’t come into a gym and go straight for the 60lb+ dumbbell bench press! You are asking for an injury to happen, and this is extremely common with our weak points like our shoulders, knees and lower back.
Try at least one or two sets with super light dumbbells to really stretch out the muscle and get you the full range of motion.
Speaking of full range of motion, stretching is brilliant in encouraging this and with greater range of motion our muscles get worked more and we end up with way better results.
For both women and men using stretch bands is also another fantastic way to stretch out the muscles so if you own some or see them in the gym give them a go especially if you have had an injury in the past. This is the reason physiotherapists use them in rehab and if you get into regular practice of doing this you will prevent yourself from a lot of pain, grief and frustration in losing results due to an injury.
Supplements to help with muscle recovery:
Whey Protein – great an hour before your workout and immediately after your workout (Try: Platinum Hydrobuilder)
BCAA’s – a must after your workout (Try: Superior Amino 2222)
Casein Protein – great to have before bedtime (Try: Optimum 100% Natural Casein)
Glutamine – anytime during the day when feeling muscle soreness (Try: Optimum Glutamine)
Multi vitamins – best taken as soon as you wake up (Try: Optimum Super-Multi Pak )
Warming Up and Stretching: Conclusion
So going back to the question of warming up and stretching being a waste of time because it doesn’t really help us gain muscle or lose fat, well hopefully you see now that quite the opposite is true. Serious athletes are always focusing on this so they don’t get injured and take several steps backwards and my intention of writing this article is to really help you increase your game.
Try it out for a few weeks and you should see yourself really beginning to get in a pattern that you don’t even have to think about. It’ll be a little tough at first but if you can prevent yourself from injury which can often be lifetime isn’t it worth it?
What are your thoughts about the points in this article? Good, bad, you don’t think you’ll ever do it? Please leave a comment below…
sam: if i dont stretch i get muscle micro tears right? but in an other article you say that these microtears are what makes my muscles get bigger and stroonger, so. isnt not stretching better?
Good catch, the micro tears are definitely required to grow bigger and stronger, but stretching helps with the repair process and making sure your joints also gain that strength. This means you are optimizing your future workouts and preventing possible injuries…BIG benefits!