Most people don't realize how important stretching really is. Or flexing, for that matter (though everyone loves to flex those big guns). I've talked to a lot of people, and basically everyone hates to stretch. In fact, bodybuilders have a rep for being "muscle bound", or "inflexible". Isn't it about time to show them how wrong they are?
By now you have probably heard of Tom Platz, or Lee Priest. Lee Priest looks up to Platz because they both love to work their legs. You've seen how big Tom's legs are, but did you realize he practically ties himself into a knot doing stretches because he is so flexible (meaning that sarcastically, though he is very flexible). I'm not saying you have to be that flexible to be a great bodybuilder.
Stretching also helps burn off calories. Yes, it even burns off calories, though very little. You would probably burn of about 75 calories an hour, which is not very much. But the main reason to stretch is because when you work out, you contract your muscles, and they become tight. You need to stretch to loosen them up and help them grow.
So right now I'm going to tell you how to stretch different parts of your body.
Neck: You have to be very careful when stretching the neck. Start off by putting your right arm behind your back, and hold it stationary with your left hand. Keeping your left hand holding your right arm down, try to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Then do the same to your right. For the back of the neck, just put your hands together in the back of your neck, by pressing down gently and applying pressure while trying to pull your neck up.
Shoulders: To stretch your shoulders, you should have a partner. Have your partner stand right behind you, and hold on to your arms, bringing them straight up behind your back as far as they can go so you feel the pull (not when you feel real pain!). Keep your neck as far back as possible to stretch the shoulders to the max.
Triceps: Bending your arm, almost like flexing your biceps, bring your elbow as far back as you can above your head. Gently push the arm back with your free arm, stretching the triceps. Now do it to the other arm.
Biceps: Sitting on the ground, put both arms behind your back, with your palms flat on the floor facing your back, and lay as far back as you can without hurting yourself, but just stretching.
Your forearms are stretched along with your biceps in the biceps stretch.
Chest: Put your hands behind your back and lock them. Slowly bring them up like you did in the shoulder stretch.
Low Back: Sitting with both legs together straight out in front of you, bring one of those knees up, while the other leg is straight on the floor. Take the opposite arm of the side leg you have (right arm to left leg, left arm to right leg), and put your elbow against the outside part of your knee. Keeping the opposite leg straight out in front of you, try to look behind you, twisting your hips, really feeling your lower back stretch. Now do the other side.
High back: Getting in a position, as if doing a crunch with your hands behind you head, with your feet together straight out in front of you, try to bring your chin into your chest, stretching the high back.
Quads: Sitting down bend your legs as far as they can, calves going into your hamstrings, try to lay back as far as you can. You can also do this with one leg at a time, keeping the opposite leg straight on the ground.
Hamstrings: There are about a million and a half hamstring stretches, but the most effective, to me, is this one: While standing, bring one foot out in front of the other, a slight bend in the knee. Arch your back, spread your chest, and bend down as far as you can, really stretching those hamstrings. Do the other leg just the same.
Another hamstring stretch might look like this: Sit down, and spread your legs so that they are comfortable. Now bring your hands as far forward as possible. that really stretches your hams.
Calves: Put your hands against a wall, stand with one leg back, heel touching the ground, and lower your hips as far as they can go, really stretching the calves. Continue the same with the other leg.
Abs: Lay face down on the floor. Slowly bring your chest up as far as it can go, leaving the rest of your body the same, not moving at all.
Here are a few tips on stretching:
- Don't bounce: Bouncing causes you to pull muscles easier, and never really stretches the muscles. Your stretch should be very slow, and a smooth process.
- Hold for about 30 seconds: Well, actually you should try to hold for 30 to 60 seconds, really working the muscles.
- Stretch before and after workouts: If you jump right in to a workout, you increase your risk of pulling a muscle.
- Don't cheat yourself: If you use other muscles, you won't get the muscles stretched very good.
- I would say you should stretch for about 20-30 minutes before you workout.
Now, on to flexing! Flexing is much overlooked in bodybuilding. I don't mean that people never flex, that would be a lie. It's just, people think flexing is just for show. It is nice to show to all those girls, but flexing is a very important part of working out.
Flexing helps bring blood to your muscles, really helping build them up. The more blood in your muscles, the more they have that pump to them. Have you ever worked out, and your muscles were twice their normal size? Another way to help blood into your muscles is breathing. Inhale on the way down, exhale when applying the force. Flexing also helps isolate the muscle you are training, to really work it. After I do a set of curls, and I flex for about 30 seconds, my arms hurt more than they did during my last rep! That is why flexing really helps your muscles.
Flexing also helps you control your muscles, which is great in a competition. Being able to flex what you want and when you want is a great thing to have. Being able to pump your muscles is also pretty cool.
Tips on flexing:
- Flex after the set: After you finish a set, flex for about 30 seconds.
- Don't wait too long to start the next set, because you don't want to lose your energy.
- Flex as hard as you can: You can't work your muscles with half-hearted effort.
- Try to flex your entire body at once: This helps you control all your muscles at one time.
I hope this info helped.