Stretching – sometimes referred to as the neglected discipline and yes, we all have those days where we just want to lift something heavy and skip stretching and warming up altogether but we urge you not to. If you really want to get the best out of, not only your CrossFit workouts but your entire day then we recommend taking a few minutes every day to get your stretches in. We guarantee you’ll be thanking us later on.
Spending a few minutes to stretch out your muscles and corresponding attachments greatly improves overall flexibility (which will help you in your gymnastics and weightlifting), reduces muscle soreness or stiffness and reduces recovery time, stretching has also been shown to decrease stress and improve immune functioning. One thing to note here is that stretching and warming up are not the same thing. They compliment each other but do not cancel each other out. Doing a quick hamstring stretch before attempting your 1 rep max back squat Deadlift is not enough. You need a sufficient warm up to elevate you core body temperature and get your body ready for the stress it is about to be put under.
What are the benefits?
There’s an abundance of evidence indicating that stretching improves athletic performance but it is not restricted to that. When you stretch you increase the flexibility of the walls surrounding your veins and arteries. This means that more blood (and therefore more oxygen) can flow into your brain increasing dopamine levels and overall improving cognitive functioning. You’ll feel more energized and alert throughout the day both mentally and physically. Here’s a brief list of some of the other benefits you’ll reap from stretching:
1. Reduced hardening of arteries, decreasing risk of high cholesterol
2. Releases tension bringing a calmness to your mind and body
3. Reduces both mental and physical stress
4. Decreases arthritis pain
5. Increase flexibility
6. Reduce risk of injury
7. Help you move and feel better in your daily life
How to stretch correctly?
Now that we’ve hopefully convinced you to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, you might wonder how to stretch and which stretches are the most beneficial? We recommend starting your stretching off by focusing on your major muscle groups (e.g. hamstrings, quads, lats etc.), this also includes your neck and shoulders as well pelvic and hip regions. From their you can work your way to your accessory muscles (e.g. calves, forearms etc.). This is where we want to introduce you to one stretch that will not only alleviate most body pains but also increase your athletic performance greatly. This is the PIRIFORMAS STRETCH. To do this stretch:
1. Lie on you back (preferably on a yoga mat or soft towel). Bring your left leg up and place your foot on the ground near your bum. Then bend your right leg and bring it up so that your ankle rests on your left knee.
2. Extend your hands to your left shin/thigh depending on your range of motion and pull your leg towards your chest. As you pull you should feel the stretch in your right hip flexor / into your right gluteus.
3. After holding this stretch for ~ 30 seconds slowly return to your starting position and switch sides.
Hopefully this has convinced you to incorporate stretching into your day. For more tips and information on stretches feel free to speak to one of our qualified coaches. Find their contact details below.
Yours in Fitness,
Louis Schoeman & Manrico Sweigers