Who needs to stretch? Well, everyone does. But it’s especially important for people who weight train. If you’re lifting multiple days a week, you should be adding mobility work to your routine. If you’re just starting out in the weight room, you may not notice the effect that not stretching has on your body. But as time goes on—and as the weight you use increases—you are just asking for an injury. As college students, we might skip stretching because we’re really busy, and we often set aside just enough time for the lift…that’s completely understandable. But stretching the essentials (quads, hamstrings, shoulders, etc.) can be quick and it’s going to help you in the long run. Having mobility will help you overall because it will keep you flexible and healthy as you age and continue lifting.
To maintain a healthy body and improve your health, be sure to stretch! There are a few types of stretches you should be familiar with:
- Static stretching: A stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds.
- Passive stretching: A stretch where you use some sort of outside assistance to help achieve it, like a resistance band or body weight.
- Dynamic stretching: A stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, usually 10 to 12 times.
To warm up before you lift, you should do light mobility work or some type of dynamic stretching. For example, on leg day, some goblet squats with light weight or alternating leg swings. Dynamic stretching is best for before a workout because it warms your muscles up and prepares them for the workout you’re about to do. It’s best to save passive and active stretching for after your lift as a way to increase flexibility and cool down. Bodybuilding.com lists a ton of static stretches you can try, but some of my favorite are: hamstring stretch, seated calf stretch, standing toe touch, and shoulder stretch.
One major area that A LOT of people do not stretch is the shoulders. Here’s a prime scenario: You start lifting in the gym and progressively get stronger, continuing to lift heavier and heavier weights. As you’re lifting more, a lot of wear and tear can build up around the shoulder joint. Then one day, you feel a tweak in your shoulder…and that can really mess you up. Getting some shoulder stretches in and doing external rotations can help so much. Being in college means we are all busy, so who has time to nurse an injury?
If you’ve been to the gym in college, you most likely have seen people using a foam roller. Foam rolling seems like the newest craze and almost everyone is using it to their advantage – which they should! Foam rolling is helpful because it is a form self-myofascial release, AKA self-massage to release muscle tightness. After a workout you DO NOT want your muscles to stay tight… you want them to be elastic and healthy. You can use a foam roller on just about any part of the body but I use it mostly for my legs and back. Here’s how to do it:
- Roll the foam roller along your legs, back, side, etc.
- When you find that “knot” or tension spot, roll back and forth on it until you can feel it loosening up
- Repeat on other side
Keep in mind that foam rolling will HURT and be uncomfortable… but it hurts so good! You may then ask: why do something that is painful? You are doing it because it can help the healing and recovery process of the muscle. Foam rolling reaches the deeper tissues that you wouldn’t normally reach on your own. It also helps release a lot of muscle tightness to speed up the recovery process! Releasing the pressure in the muscle can be painful, but you’ll feel a thousand times better once you’re rolled out. All in all, stretching and foam rolling for lifters is a MUST! If you don’t stretch, nothing might happen at first but as time goes on and you get stronger, an injury is bound to happen. If you want to be healthy and stay fit, adding mobility to a routine would feel natural. The key to stretching is to warm up the muscles before a workout, throw in some static stretches after a workout and be sure to foam roll.