Good stretches for leg day ..Stretching is an essential phase of training.
Anyone who is even moderately knowledgeable or familiar with good exercise principles will vouch for the importance of a post-workout stretch session.
Despite this, stretching is often the most neglected component of a workout.
Warming up and the actual training phase are more readily implemented, simply because they offer immediate outcomes in terms of your objectives.
Stretching, on the other hand, is something that serves a long term benefit with no real short term, noticeable advantages.
Its a classic case of refusing to sow the seed because you can’t immediately harvest the benefits.
The problem is, continuous lack of stretching and range of motion/ flexibility training will bite you in the butt later down the road.
As you are probably aware, a good stretch is something you should only do after a workout and not before.
But why is this?
The reason you should stretch before and not after seems to be for two main reasons.
The first reason is that stretching create trauma in the muscle fibers. This microtrauma is also experienced during a workout, especially if it’s a resistance-based workout.
Microtrauma is basically the microscopic tears and bruises you experience in your muscle tissue when tension yanks at them during contractions. This is a natural process and is necessary in order to stimulate growth and gains in strength and size.
That means by the time you begin your post-workout stretch, you are simply adding to whatever bruises and tears that already exist in your muscles from working out.
If you stretch before you actually work out, all it means is you’re now beginning your workout with a bunch of microscopic injuries. That burn and tension you feel from the stretch are as a result of microtrauma occurring.
Going into a workout with fresh microtrauma as opposed to earning it during the workout is a recipe for injury and diminished performance.
The other reason stretching is best reserved for after your workout is because your body reaches a state of rest while experiencing a stretch.
This state of rest causes your nerve pathway to switch from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest or digest).
When in rest or digest mode, your body is less than concerned with any significant physical activity.
Stretching can, therefore, limit your mental and neurological capacity for a decent workout.
When it comes to stretching, all you really need is a good amount of flat open floor and probably a yoga/workout mat for comfort and sanitary reasons.
You also want to be in a well-ventilated area since breathing is actually a big component of having a decent stretch.
Once you have all these down, its time to begin your stretch.
This one is a great way to open up the hip flexors and give your pelvic system some much needed TLC.
The pigeon pose isn’t just great post-workout, its an essential stretch in general due to the fact that us lazy modern humans spend a great deal of our time sitting, which really plays havoc to our hip flexors and lower spine.
The pigeon pose is a popular asana in yoga and is done by placing one knee forward onto the floor next to the corresponding wrist.
From here stretch your other leg straight behind you.
Your spine should now be in an upright position as you rest your legs with the front knee still bent.
If you feel comfortable, you can begin to bend over on top of the front leg.
After 20 seconds, switch legs and do the same on the other side.
Another great way to open the hips, as well as a gradual increase in glute flexibility, is the glute stretch.
In a seated position, cross one leg over the other, which should be straight and extended. Twist your body in the opposite direction, using your elbow to push your knee and engage in a lower spine twist.
You should feel the stretch emanating from your lower back right up the glute muscle of the crossed over leg.
Hold for 20 seconds and swop position.
It’s often hard to target the quads for a good stretch, so we have just the thing to make that a whole lot easier.
Whilst on all fours, bing one foot into a lunge in line with your hands.
Rest the back leg on its knee and then proceed to grab its ankle with the corresponding hand and pull forward until you’re in a neutral spine position or you can feel moderate discomfort in your quad.
Hold for 20 seconds before releasing and swopping sides.
Yet another yoga asana, the downward dog or down dog is a great real leg stretch, working on the glutes all the way down to your Achilles’ tendons.
On all fours, straighten your legs, neutralize your spine and straighten your arms.
Your glutes should be in the air so you’re forming a sort of “A” frame shape with your body.
From here, push your heels down towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves and hamstrings.
Hold for 20 seconds and release.
Stretching is both beneficial in returning you to a post-workout rested state as well as safeguarding your flexibility for an increased range of motion.
Increasing, or at the least, maintaining your range of motion not only improves the quality of your reps and mobility, but its also going to help prevent injuries.