The popularity of stretching, particularly static stretching, where stretched positions are held for set periods of time, has been declining over the last few years, with recent studies showing that performing static stretching can temporarily reduce strength and power capacity.
Considering that maximizing muscle growth requires both of the above qualities to be as high as possible, at least in more experienced lifters, this has caused stretching to get a bad reputation in bodybuilding circles lately.
However, increasing flexibility and promoting strength through a larger range of motion is still a key element in training to maximize exercise quality, is useful in warm-ups and good for helping prevent injury and, when used correctly, certain forms of stretching can be very beneficial for this.
Firstly, it’s important to note that not all stretching or stretching exercises have to be carried out through static stretching. In fact, as mentioned above, this variation is perhaps the least effective. Eccentric exercises have been demonstrated to be far superior for preventing injury, and dynamic stretching and foam rolling has been shown to be better for warm-ups and flexibility.
So, below are seven exercises that can be used to stretch the muscles and help improve flexibility, strength, muscle growth, prevent injury and boost blood flow to the muscles.
Where static stretching has seen a decline in popularity, the use of foam rolling is rising, with more bodybuilders integrating it into their warm-ups. This inclusion is not without merit either as foam rolling both increases flexibility and blood flow to the muscle without affecting strength or power, making it an ideal substitution for static stretching.
Foam rolling also helps recovery after exercise, meaning it can be useful for cool-downs as well.
Glute Foam Rolling
Muscles Stretched: Glutes
The glutes are both an underutilized and very tight muscle, which can have detrimental effects on the range of motion of both the lower back and the hamstrings, increasing the risk of injury and hindering performance.
Using a foam roller to massage the glutes for around one minute can help reduce the tightness and allow greater use of the glutes, which can promote greater strength and muscle growth.
There is also evidence that foam rolling can increase the flexibility of unrolled muscles, meaning it can serve as a time-efficient means of boosting overall suppleness.
Shoulder Foam Rolling
Muscles Stretched: Front Shoulders
The front shoulders are often very tight muscles and common sites for injuries, particularly in weightlifters. So, it is an area that should be given attention when looking to enhance flexibility.
While the front shoulder is a particularly difficult area to perform static stretches on, it is relatively easy and safe to perform other stretching exercises like foam rolling.
Moving a small ball around the front shoulder can help improve flexibility and further boost blood flow, which can help you prepare for exercises like the bench press.
Along with foam rolling, dynamic stretching offers a way to both warm the body and enhance flexibility without reducing strength or power. However, unlike foam rolling, it is more site-specific, meaning lower body stretching exercises will not improve the range of motion in the upper body. But these stretching exercises also double as low-intensity strength exercises, which can help prepare the nervous system for an intense session.
Walking Lunges with High Kicks
Muscles Stretched: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes and Calves
For the lower body, this exercise offers the most comprehensive dynamic stretch, affecting the front and back thighs as well as the calves and glutes and acting as a good preparatory movement for squats or lunges.
This movement is done by completing a lunge and pulling the rear leg through and kicking high in the air at a controlled speed, ensuring the move is not made with excessive power to avoid any muscle strain.
Push Ups with Rotations
Muscles Stretched: Pecs, Front Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Abdominals
This exercise will help stretch the upper body musculature through performing a regular push up followed by rotating the upper body with one arm in the air and repeating on the other side to stretch the obliques and front abdominals
The push ups with rotations can also help prepare for common chest exercises like the bench press while also activating the core muscles, making it an efficient warm up exercise.
Eccentrically-Focused Weight Exercises
Contrary to what many might believe, weight training can act as a very effective stretching exercise, provided a full range of motion is used for each movement. The most effective form of weight training to enhance flexibility and prevent injury is through exercises that focus in the eccentric, or descending, phase of the movement such as those shown below.
Muscles Stretched: Hamstrings and Glutes
The Stiff-Legged Deadlift is done by keeping the legs straight and lowering a weighted barbell slowing below the knees until a stretch is felt before returning the bat to the hips.
It is an excellent means of stretching and strengthening the hamstrings and glutes, which can help boost athletic performance and prevent injury as well as merely improve flexibility.
Deficit Calf Raises
Muscles Stretched: Calves and Hamstrings
Through carrying out calf raises in a block or step it allows a greater range of movement and can be helpful in both boosting muscle growth and developing flexibility in the calves. Due to the large range of motion used, it can also help stretch the hamstrings to a smaller degree as well, complimenting the Stiff-Legged Deadlifts well.
Dumbbell Push Ups
Muscles Stretched: Pecs, Front Shoulders, and Triceps
Using dumbbells in your bench press allows for greater range of motion in the chest and shoulders and can help improve flexibility in both these areas as well as developing upper body pushing strength. This exercise is also time efficient as it works the upper body as well as the barbell variation while helping enhance suppleness.
Along with the activities shown above, strength, your range of motion and recovery can also be improved through supplementing with nutrients like omega-3 fats, protein, gelatin and Triazole to maximize results.
|Richie Hedderman – Richie started Hurricane Fitness in 2011. Starting out as a Boxer at the age of 11 and winning County, Provincial, National and International medals in Boxing, he began running fitness classes and personal training.
Since then he has gone on to work alongside Olympic, World and European Champions and has trained many clients, both at home and abroad, with a wide range of goals and needs.