There are so many different opinions as to when you should stretch. While no one undermines the importance of stretching, some trainers and professional bodybuilders recommend before training, some say during training, while some say after training.
It is important to stretch at the right time because stretching the wrong muscles at the wrong time can considerably hinder your training and also pull or strain your muscles.
When Should You Stretch?
When your muscles are not warmed up, they are not as ‘elastic’. Stretching cold muscles can cause them to strain or even tear. Studies show stretching muscles right before lifting weights can significantly decrease strength as well. This means you could be lifting heavier weights if you didn’t stretch right before strength training. This shows the importance of stretching.
So, now that we have established a pre-workout stretch is not beneficial, what about during workouts? The above factors still stand true, even though stretching after a few reps feels good and it gets the blood flowing. However, you will better off if you just flexed or massaged your muscles instead of stretching them. Stretching too much during training will again decrease muscle strength.
Although knowing how to stretch properly during workouts can improve your strength and recovery between sets. Your antagonistic muscles often come in pairs and as one contracts, the other reflexes. So during workouts, stretch the muscle that is antagonistic to the one you are working on. For example, stretch your biceps after a shoulder workout or your hamstrings after leg presses.
How Bodybuilders Can Stretch
The best way to successfully build muscles during training is to stretch your muscles immediately after your workout. And not just any type of stretching, but intense stretching where it hurts. You need to know how far you can go because you don’t want to strain or tear muscle tissue. Each stretch should last at least for a minute before you release your muscle.
For example, you can sit at the bottom of a chest fly while holding medium to heavy dumbbells in your hands. Then hang from a chinning bar with a close grip and have someone who pulls down on your waist. Alternatively, you can sit in a deep squat. This is the level of intense stretching you should achieve right after you finish strength training. Muscles that have already been warmed up stretch better because they have expanded and as a result, are more elastic.
The importance of stretching intensely is that it can actually increase the rate of hypertrophy. A high rate of hypertrophy activates muscle cells and enhances growth within muscle tissue. The stretching might hurt and you will definitely feel it the next day, but it’s considerably effective for muscle growth.
In conclusion, don’t stretch cold muscles before workout or during workout. Instead, intensely stretch muscles after a heavy session of strength training. Make sure you engage all your muscles during training and perform deep stretches that are at least a minute long.