Seriously?!  Are you considering not stretching as part of your physical activity?

Many people tend to think: “What happens if I don’t stretch? Not much.”

Well, that rationale is ridiculous and costly.  I am tired of seeing people do an intense workout and skip the stretching.  I am tired of hearing people say that stretching is not important.  As a matter of fact, it is incredibly important.

If you are an anti-stretch person, it might be possible that you can still lift heavy weights, can get very bulky and can achieve high fitness goals.  You might be able to achieve those goals–for a while.  however, pretty soon you will start to feel lower back pain.  That pain might be slight at first, but it will only get worse.  It might start as some soreness after that kettle-bell workout, maybe after sitting in an office chair for a while, maybe from getting out of bed in the morning…  And, one day, while doing a deep-squat, or re-racking the weights – or just doing a weight-loaded exercise you have done before – you will feel something tweak in your back.  It will hurt.  Maybe you still don’t stretch it out, because this time it is hard to move, hard to breath. It might even feel like your spine is misaligned. It is a very dark picture to paint, but also the realistic one.

This could have been avoided.  Maybe you looked down on those who regularly stretch and waste precious weight-lifting time, maybe you thought yoga and Pilates were a waste of time or not hard-core enough for you.  If those maybes fit you, then abruptly change your perspective.  Stretching is vital.

Here is a test:  Lay on the floor on your back.  Elevate your legs straight up in the air. Elongate your legs with your knees and feet directly above the hips.  If you are not able to fully lengthen your legs without your knees bending, then your hamstrings are way too tight an did you know that tight hamstrings lead to lower back issues?

So, lets backtrack.  With exercise and heavy weight-lifting, the hamstrings gradually get stronger. Without properly stretching the hamstrings, they will get tighter, too.  Eventually the lack of mobility and tightness in the hamstrings will lead to their pulling the pelvis down, a posterior pelvic tilt, which changes the curve of the spine.  Those who sit in a chair for a great portion of the day (such as in an office chair) further aggravate this situation, as sitting in a chair also leads to retracting the hamstrings.  What has happened by now is the lumbar curve is lost, posture is totally awful and with heavy weight loads from the workouts, vertebral herniation ensues.  Frightening.

Not only is it frightening, but it is common… actually, too common on the gym floor.  Many guys like to be able to pick up heavy things and put them back down.  Yet, these guys also are the ones to refuse to work on enhancing mobility and agility.  They want to have that bulky and muscly look, which they think makes them more manly and stretching always seemed boring to them.  Once the back goes out, it is hard to remain as manly – so these tips are especially for you, guys!

If you want to avoid unnecessary pain and injury, enhancing flexibility is just as important as strengthening the muscles. you want to be both mobile and agile.

have i finally convinced you to focus on and enhance your flexibility?

If so, here is a plan of action for you.  Do warm-up stretches, of large movement exercises to prepare your body for your workout.  Finish your workout with slow stretching on the mat.  I always say that 20% of your workout time should be dedicated to stretching.  If you cannot fathom doing that, try stretching during your recovery time between sets of your exercises.  Make those recovery stretches part of your interval training. And, to be especially good to your body, take yoga at least once or twice a week.

The tightest parts of the body tend to be the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, thoracic spine, and lats.  Start by thinking of those parts of the body, and gradually you will achieve total body flexibility.

Remember, what good is muscle strength if you cannot do anything with it?!  Within functional fitness training, you will build, enhance, and improve strength, agility, and flexibility.  To ensure you lead a healthy physical lifestyle, don’t neglect stretching.

See you in yoga!

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