It took me until I was almost 42 years old to truly grasp the importance of stretching. What can I say? I’m a late bloomer.
Now, I’m not talking about doing a few casual little stretches after a set of bench press. I’m talking about deep stretching for strength training.
Stretching is important for many reasons, and especially crucial for strength training. I’m going to give you my personal experience over the years and how this new daily routine has completely changed my life. I’ll also talk about the dangers of ignoring deep stretching.
Yoga & Stretching
For most of my adult life I had suffered with lower back pain. Geez, I’m sounding like one of those old people on a prescription infomercial!
It got to the point where I couldn’t do deadlifts or squats anymore, so I didn’t touch them for many years. I would try them now and again for a week or so, but would stop because of my lower back pain. Instead, I thought that I was training smart by excluding exercises that caused me pain.
At the beginning of 2016, I started exploring different types of deep stretching exercises. I also started doing a Yoga class a couple of times per week. I’m not really sure what came over me, but I knew that I needed to increase my flexibility. And if I were going to start something new like this, I wanted to be consistent. So I jumped head first into learning more about certain types of stretching as well as doing Yoga a couple times a week.
Within just a couple of weeks I noticed that my lower back pain was subsiding. After doing the deep stretching routine for a few months, I slowly eased into squats and deadlifts again. Of course I started with lighter weights but gradually built up my numbers. Today, I’m squatting and deadlifting more weight than I ever have (I’m not a powerlifter but the weight I’m moving are heavy for me!).
Unlock Your Hip Flexors
After experiencing the benefits of consistent stretching and doing Yoga, I decided to take it a step further. I wanted to learn more about the dynamics of stretching and expand my knowledge on what specific stretches do and how they effect the body. So I just picked up a book called Unlock Your Hip Flexors by injury specialist Rick Kaselj & Mike Westerdal.
*Note: I’ve been following Mike Westerdal and doing his strength training programs for many years.
Unlock Your Hip Flexors goes in depth about why we should be focused on doing specific stretching exercises for overall health and vitality. Mike and Rick give a nice breakdown of how our bodies work as well as the dangers on our health of our modern day lifestyle, aka sitting.
Some of the stretches I’ve been doing are in the Unlock Your Hip Flexors eBook. But most of them are ones I’ve never done before. So I’m going to be integrating these exercises into my current stretching for strength training routine. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes, and will post my new stretching routine soon.
How Stretching is Related to Strength
Many weightlifters and bodybuilders don’t think much about stretching, much less about the importance of your hip flexors. Especially younger guys (I think that women may be more aware of stretching and they’re naturally a bit more flexible).
Most men just want to hit the gym, eat, sleep and grow. As I mentioned earlier, we may do a couple of little stretches after a workout. But I honestly didn’t know anyone in my early years of lifting, including myself, that spent an adequate amount of time stretching or doing something like Yoga. In fact, in those years most bodybuilders would’ve probably laughed at the idea of Yoga.
As I got older and started feeling more pains, specifically in my lower back, I chocked it up to lifting heavy weights. Gotta blame it on something, right? I thought that maybe the years of squats and deadlifts and heavy presses had taken their toll on my body. Maybe I went too heavy? Perhaps my form was bad? I went with what made sense to me at the time, yet not venturing out of the tiny little box that I was thinking in.
Once I started doing deep stretching exercises and Yoga, I realized it wasn’t so much the exercises I was doing. In fact, lifting weights probably had very little to do with the pains I was feeling.
When I started doing deep stretching for strength training, I noticed that not only could I squat and deadlift again, but I started getting stronger overall. It was seriously like a magical event. At least for me. And now that I’m getting deeper into unlocking my hip flexors through this book I just bought, I’m excited about getting stronger and breaking some more personal records.
I attribute my strength gains to loosening the tightness in many areas including my lower back, hamstrings, and hip flexors. The deep stretching for strength training gave me back the flexibility I had in my youth by loosening those areas. After months of being consistent I felt more balanced. And I’m extremely consistent, doing the stretches and integrating some Yoga poses everyday, sometimes twice a day.
Sitting to Death
I want to touch one last subject here, and it’s not necessarily related to strength training and lifting weights.
One thing I learned in reading Unlock Your Hip Flexors is that sitting most of the day was the number one factor that contributed in my lower back pain. It’s too much to go into in this post, but let’s just put it this way; we’re not made to sit all day.
I knew sitting wasn’t the best thing for you, but didn’t realize how detrimental it was to our bodies until I read the Unlock Your Hip Flexors eBook. Today’s culture is more sedentary that ever. I’m sitting as I’m writing this post! I assure I will be doing some stretching here as soon as I’m done!
Sitting too much is responsible for lower back, specifically the psoas, knee pain, and hip pain. We’re constricting ourselves in a way we weren’t meant to be constricted by sitting too much.
*Psoas is the longest muscle in your body, connecting the lower body to the upper body.
Learning about this in the Unlock Your Hip Flexors eBook, I’m now paying much more attention to how long I sit. Much of my work consists of writing, and I’m also a musician so I spend a lot of time in my recording studio. And through all of this, I’m sitting.
Where as we can’t quit our jobs, the most feasible thing that I’ve found to be helpful is to simply get up about every hour and take a brief walk. And even better, take a couple of minutes to stretch. Even if it’s something as simple as tow-touches (I love these as they stretch my hamstrings and lower back; simple, but it works). Just do some sort of movement and stretching every hour. You may even find that you’re more productive in the office in doing this.
Stretching for Strength Training
Stretching for strength training, deep stretching, Yoga, and the new tips I’ve learned from the Unlock Your Hip Flexors program have served me quite well. I’m stronger, more flexible, and have far less pain that I did before. It’s never too late to start, so whether your young, middle-aged, or older, I want to encourage you to start some sort of daily stretching routine. Even if it’s just 10 minutes each day, something is better than nothing.
If you have questions about stretching for strength training, Yoga for bodybuilding, or this new eBook ‘Unlock Your Hip Flexors’ please drop a comment below or feel free to reach out to me.
Train with Passion,