If you think you're getting all the stretching you
need to maximize strength and muscle mass during your bodybuilding
training sessions, or even if you spend a couple of minutes before
and/or after your workouts, you're definitely not making the most of
your genetics and overall bodybuilding program.
Most athletics endeavors require some development in all components of
physical and motor fitness: strength, power, speed, endurance,
coordination, balance, agility and flexibility. Obviously, specific
sports will place more emphasis on specific component. However, since
stretching and flexibility is the ability to move muscles, joints and
bones through their full range of motion (ROM), improving range of
Stretching is probably the single most important activity that can be
used to prevent injuries. Bodybuilding requires a high level of
flexibility. So do gymnastics, martial arts, wrestling, yoga and dance.
Unfortunately, many athletes don't understand the benefits of stretching
and flexibility or even consider it too time-consuming and don't do it.
Key to Flexibility
The way to achieve flexibility is to follow basic principles of exercise
science. Stretching to the point of pain activates two different types
of nerve-fiber receptors: Golgi tendon organs (GTOs), located in the
tendons, and muscle spindles, located in the muscles. The Golgi tendon
muscle spindles protect the muscles and tendons from damage. If you
stretch too aggressively, these receptors will actually decrease
flexibility to protect the muscles from damage.
The way to stretch correctly is to avoid the pain threshold. Get into a
position where the target muscle feels tight but still comfortable and
hold for 10-15 seconds, then release the stretch. This is like a warm-up
set for your weight work.
After a few seconds, resume the stretch but focus on a greater
relaxation of the muscle group and hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling the
muscle loosen up. This format of 2-3 brief stretches is usually enough
for both warm-up and cool-down.
Now you can move into a deeper developmental (as opposed to warm-up/
cool-down) stretch and hold the position for 30-60 seconds,
concentrating again on relaxing the muscle. Breathe slowly and deeply at
all times - never hold your breathe .
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