Real men don’t stretch, right? Real men will enter the gym, kick off their work boots, throw on a weight belt, and get to work. They’ll tackle the iron, tossing newbies and rookies out of their way as they bench, squat, and deadlift their way to greatness. They are big, strong, and serious in the weight room. They have time for the iron, and that’s it. They have no mercy for cardio machines. They have no time for “cable curls” and other foo-foo devices. There’s a good chance they don’t even train abs. And it’s an absolute certainty they aren’t doing any stretching. Cause stretching is for girls, right?
Not so fast. The problem here is that these powerful bodybuilders and powerlifters might just be limiting how strong they can really become. Plenty of studies show that stretching helps performance greatly. The top athletes in the world often undergo extensive stretching before athletic competitions. Surely you’ve seen the world’s strongest men competitions where the athletes will carry 300-pound Atlas balls for blocks or pull trucks with just their bare hands. Do you think they just hop out of their trucks and lift? Of course not. They stretch prior to lifting, and so should you!
Three minutes of stretching per muscle group prior to lifting is all you need. Keep your muscle group integrity strong. Follow up the stretching with 1 to 3 warm-up sets before going heavy!
You should be stretching just a bit between each set. This isn’t designed to weaken the area or knock anything out of place. Rather, you want to keep the blood flow to the muscle group being trained as strong as possible. One minute between each set is plenty.
The stretching you do immediately following your workout will go a long way to determining how sore this muscle group will be for the rest of the week. If you complete your last set of flat dumbbell presses, have a drink of water, then leave the gym, you are placing yourself in serious risk of soreness. You have a great deal of lactic acids and other toxins trapped in this bunched up muscle group. It won’t break up on its own anytime soon, and the result will be unnecessary soreness and stiffness in the coming day. Plus, without the ability to flush out the muscle group, how will the nutrients your muscles need to recover even arrive? Stretch immediately following your final training set for at least 10 minutes.
On rest days
This is probably the most important stretching period of all. It is on this day that you will likely be the sorest. After all, you did the work and got your hands dirty 24 to 38 hours ago, and now you are enjoying a level of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that is second to none. Your muscles are tight. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about weakening any muscle groups for a later workout – you can rest all day! Stretch them for at least 15 to 20 minutes while you watch television or cook breakfast.
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