If you are looking to add lean muscle or break through that plateau, stretching is not the first thing that comes to mind to take your training to the next level. It is however an essential component to any serious workout regimen and often underutilized by those serious about getting the most out of their workouts. Plain and simple, by overlooking it you will be limiting your performance and minimize your bodies ability to add lean muscle mass.
The two types of stretching we are going to look at are intended to increase range of motion, maintain the optimal length of the muscle, and correct muscle imbalances. If a muscle is shortened or lengthened from its ideal resting length, it will not be able to generate maximum power which will limit its ability to grow. Maintaining optimal length gives muscles the ability to fully "initiate" when called on by the nervous system, leading to much greater strength and performance during workouts. By incorporating these two very simple techniques you will help maintain optimal muscle resting lengths, allowing you to lift heavier loads and build lean muscle more effectively.
This technique is used to promote muscle tissue extensibility and improve range of motion. The goal is to alleviate tender spots within the muscle, without negatively effecting performance. Self-myofascial has been shown to have a positive effect on strength and power, making it a great alternative to static stretching for athletes with performance based exercise programs.
If you walk into the gym you often see members "rolling" up and down a muscle, which is the incorrect way to perform this technique. Your goal here is to initiate a specific response from the body, which will require targeted pressure on a specific area.
Use a foam roller and roll down the muscle to find a tender spot. When an area of tightness has been identified hold pressure on this area for 30 - 60 seconds. Repeat on 1-2 additional spots in the same targeted muscle.
This technique is best performed after your workout on the major muscle group(s) worked during the completed session.
Use this form of stretching after every workout by stretching the major muscle worked, to return it to its optimal resting length. You should also use this technique to stretch areas identified as "tight" that can be inhibiting performance, creating postural imbalances and preventing new muscle growth.
Static stretching should not be done before exercise unless you are stretching a overactive/tightened muscle group. Overactive muscles do not "fire" at full power, so by relieving tightness of these identified muscles you will increase their ability to perform for the upcoming workout. Keep in mind all other muscles besides those identified as overactive can be weakened for up to 2 hours after static stretching, so performing this type of stretching post workout is preferred.
Hold each stretch for 1 set of 30-60 seconds, targeting the muscle trained or areas identified as tightened.
Article by: Connor Cummings
Divided Labs CEO
Nationally Accredited Fitness Coach
NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist