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Talk to anyone who regularly hits the gym, and they’ll tell you that suffering from an injury is the absolute worst thing that could happen.
Injuries are painful, sure. But what makes it worse is that the recovery process can stretch on for weeks, if not longer. And when you’re finally back in the gym, it’ll take you some time before you can start lifting the same weights as before your injury.
In more severe injury cases, you may not even return to the gym without consulting a sports medicine professional.
That’s why stretching is so important. Sure, it’s not as exciting as high-intensity interval training. However, it plays a vital role in improving blood flow in static muscles and preparing them for what’s to come. Stretching exercises can help you with flexibility and reducing tightness, making your regular workout safer and more effective.
When you’re stretching, you’re lengthening and loosening your muscles up. That gives them a wider full range of motion so that you can sit deeper in your squat, for example.
“Tight muscles can cause undue strain on the neighboring joints during [the] normal daily function, or they themselves can become injured,” says Sasha Cyrelson, clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy.
“As we age, our muscles get shorter and less elastic. We need to take an active role in maintaining and improving the length of our muscles so we can continue to enjoy our abilities without pain.”
Stretching is vital both before and after a rigorous strength training session. As a result, let’s take a closer look at the 5 key stretches you should do to avoid weightlifting injuries.
1) Downward dog
The downward dog relieves stiffness throughout the body, but it benefits the back and the area between the shoulder blades the most.
You start on all fours with your knees hip distance apart. Then walk the palms out in front of the shoulders while shifting your stomach towards your thighs.
2) Standing hamstring stretch
Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms slightly by your side.
In a sweeping motion, bend forward as you lower your head towards the floor. Make sure your head, neck, and shoulder muscles are relaxed. Stay in this position for at least a minute; longer if you can manage it.
This pose stretches out your glutes, calves, neck, back, and hamstrings.
3) Lunge with a spinal twist
This specific stretch helps with posture and any niggling pain that could occur after sitting for prolonged periods.
You start the pose by standing with your feet together. Then, take a step forward with your left foot and drop into a lunge, while keeping your other leg straight. This movement will induce a stretch in your right thigh.
Place your right hand on the floor and proceed to twist your body to the left, while extending your left arm towards the ceiling. Hold the pose for about a minute before repeating on the other side. This movement activates your quads and back.
4) Upward facing dog
As you might imagine, the upward facing dog is a variation of the first stretch we recommended, the downward facing dog.
You start by lying face down on the floor with your legs extended behind you. Your hands should be next to your lower ribs; press them firmly into the floor until your back muscles start to activate. Next, straighten your arms and lift your torso and legs a few inches off the floor.
5) Triceps stretch
The tricep stretch exercise is a great way to begin an upper body workout as it activates your neck, shoulders, back, and triceps.
You can do this either kneeling, sitting, or standing tall as long as your feet are hip-width apart with your arms extended over the head. Next, bend your right elbow until your right-hand touches the middle of your back. Then use your left hand and place it above the right elbow and pull it downwards.
Finally, don’t compromise on form and technique!
To avoid injury, you must stretch before and after your workout. However, you must also pay careful attention to proper form and technique.
Newbies might compromise on form and take on more weight than what they can realistically handle. But doing so — especially without proper technique — will damage your muscles. And that may set your fitness goals back by weeks as you spend time recovering and seeking services, such as the help of physiotherapy professionals.
Finally, start your fitness regimen by seeking out the support of a personal trainer, especially if you’re new to weightlifting, stretching, etc. The initial investment will go a long way in both your final fitness goals and prevent hiccups along the way.
What do you think about these stretches? Let us know in the comments below!
Author bio: Shane Murray has spent over half a decade working in the medical industry. Besides learning new things about the medical world, one of his passions is writing & teaching about medical topics. He is working with AESM Physiotherapy and helps produce and edit content related to medicine, covering topics such as treatments & symptoms for particular conditions, injury prevention, medical tips, and much more.