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Stretching Before Exercise: A Life Changing Tip
Stretching before exercise is a very beneficial thing to do.
I get it, stretching can sometimes feel unnecessary or like it’s slowing down your gains.
There have been several days I’ve skipped stretching or warming up before lifting.
Give me the heavy weights and let’s leave the boring stuff to the newbies, right?
Well, it’s like that saying where you pay less now and end up paying more later.
If you stretch less now, you’ll definitely end up paying for it later.
Stretching before exercise can be the key to longevity, injury prevention, and more gains.
Another thing that will help with these three things: longevity, injury prevention, and gains is the Dark Iron Fitness genuine leather weightlifting belt.
A weightlifting belt falls on the spectrum of safety, as does stretching.
This shows that stretching is of high importance to your health and fitness.
The Importance of Stretching
How Often Should You Be Stretching?
In my opinion, stretching should be done daily, especially before and after exercise.
The benefit to stretching so often is that you’ll consistently stay loose and avoid muscle tightness.
Think about it, we spend roughly eight hours in our beds at night, and often we don’t stay as active as we should throughout our day.
Most of the active time spent will be when we go to the gym (if we go, that is).
This means that the majority of our body’s physical activity revolves around a few hours and is thrust into high activity.
One problem with high activity after a good amount of time being sedentary is that your muscles aren’t primed and warmed up.
So, to combat overworking your inactive muscles, you should be stretching beforehand to start your workouts correctly.
Then, as your muscles get tight and stressed from working out, now you should follow up with further stretching.
Stretching before and after exercise is the most beneficial thing you can do, as well as stretching on the days you don’t work out.
Why is Stretching So Important?
As I stated, stretching is important because it prepares your body for exercise both before and after you complete it.
Think of stretching as a way to lubricate your muscles with the blood in your body and relieve any tension on the joints from a day of being sedentary and a night of sleeping in bed.
I always like to think of it similar to warming up a sports car on a winter day.
You definitely do not want to turn on that sports car and immediately start speeding down the block.
If the car doesn’t warm up properly and you instantly push it to the limit, you can ruin the engine.
The same concept applies to the human body — if you don’t warm up the muscles, the blood, the joints, tendons, bones, etc. then your engine stops working and your body suffers the consequences.
Smart and purposeful stretching will prepare you to lift heavier in the gym and recover faster once you get home.
When you think of stretching, you should think of it as something equal to proper nutrition, safe lifting, good form and a decent amount of rest.
Besides just stretching, adding in weightlifting accessories like Dark Iron Fitness’ genuine leather weightlifting belt can help with your safety and form.
Now, let’s discuss some stretches that can benefit you!
Stretching Before Exercise: The Top Stretches
Seated Stretching Before Exercise
Seated stretching is both good in a regular desk chair or when incorporating weight machines.
If you are in a chair you can do basic side-to-side back stretches, holding onto the sides of the chair.
You can also bend over the front and touch your toes, stretch your legs straight out, etc.
Seated exercises in a chair are known to be used often in senior citizen training programs and classes.
This is because it is a low-risk format where you can still accomplish decent stretching.
Now, as for seated weight machines, you can also do pre-workout stretching on these.
I often encourage people to use the leg extension machine to do lightweight leg warm-ups before their leg day.
The same thing can be applied to the seated hamstring curl machine, to warm-up your hamstrings.
Basically, any seated machine, with very low weight, can give you a good stretch in the muscles you plan to work that day.
Standing stretches will give you a better range of motion compared to chair stretches.
You can do a lot of arm stretches, back stretches and get deeper stretches for hamstrings.
Also, when doing standing stretches you can utilize things such as the wall, a handrail, etc. to facilitate certain stretches.
Using a wall or doorway to stretch your back and shoulders is one of the best things you can do for your posture.
I like standing stretches more than most other types of stretching due to your body being fully active and participating.
However, some of the deepest stretching you can achieve is actually from floor stretching.
Related: Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain?
Floor Stretching Before Exercise
In my opinion, floor stretching should be your go-to.
If you can do any kind of stretching before working out, get on the floor and knock it out.
You can get really deep stretching done for your back, legs, hamstrings, groin, etc.
The multiple variations you can perform are amazing and will loosen you up perfectly for leg day, or any push/pull routine you may be doing.
All of these stretches can be even further amplified by using accessories.
We’ll talk more down below about how you can utilize different tools to make your stretching even more efficient.
Other Important Stretches
Neck Stretching Before Exercise
I see neck stretches as something that is very important but way too often skipped or not even thought about.
It’s very easy to disregard your neck, especially when it comes to fitness.
Not many people train their necks at all, which is fine depending on your build and lifestyle.
However, some people have extremely weak necks and don’t use their necks or ROM enough to build up any strength.
You’ll notice if you work a desk job that your neck will get stiff and this connects to everything: your spine, shoulders, back, etc.
Especially nowadays since we all look down at our phones, we get that 100-lb head effect.
Basic neck stretching is important before working out to fully release any tension throughout your body.
After long periods of sitting at work, in a movie, on a flight or in bed — you should be doing neck stretches (and other stretching) at various intervals.
Protecting your neck is highly important, so why not strengthen it, too?
Stretching Before Exercise with Accessories
Utilizing accessories is an awesome way to amplify the stretches you are already doing.
In my opinion, there are three rock-solid ways to perform better stretching:
- Adding in resistance bands
- Using foam rollers, medicine balls or exercise balls
- Utilizing very light weights (dumbbells, empty barbell, etc.)
When you implement these types of accessories and tools, you can activate the stretch more.
For example, using resistance bands will essentially give you a larger range of motion for any stretches you are doing, or allow you to rely on the band’s construction to help with stretches that are normally to hard to achieve.
Foam rollers, medicine balls, and exercise balls are great for back stretches and releasing any muscle tension — especially when used to apply pressure.
Adding light weights to your stretching is similar to warming up on the weight machines.
You can stretch your arms and back and legs with things like dumbbells to prepare for your routine.
Also, an empty barbell will help you stretch out before doing specific exercises like bench press, overhead press, and barbell rows.
Use all of these accessories if you can, but also mix and match these with other basic stretches as well.
Stretching Before Exercise — Final Thoughts
Always Put Yourself in the Best Position to See Results
Lastly, just remember that your fitness journey is what you make it.
Stretching may not be your forte, but it might be something to look into.
I, personally, recommend that you stretch every time you plan to exercise and after, as well.
Another way to look at stretching is like an exercise routine in itself.
If you treat stretching like a necessary workout instead of an optional thing, you’ll eventually get used to it.
This type of stretching can be done as a “warm-up”, and some may prefer this dynamic warm-up to standard stretching.
Let the stretching become ingrained in your muscle memory until you keep doing it out of habit.
Then, after stretching, use tools like the Dark Iron Fitness genuine leather weightlifting belt to keep those muscles warm and prepared for heavy weights.
There’s nothing better than having your muscles be completely loose and warmed-up for making gains.
But, also never forget to stretch after you get your gains, as well!
Related: 16 Post-Workout Static Stretches