Friday, July 17, 2015

The Art of Stretching

I can’t stress enough how important stretching is to your workouts and health in general. I have done plenty of blogs on why I stretch, and how increasingly important it gets as I get older. I have also found it to be pretty beneficial for muscle growth, and probably more importantly my ability to function the day after a good workout.

I am going to focus completely on the warm up and stretching that I do with my legs, because let’s face it, out of all the muscles on your body, try to function outside of the gym (or in it actually) if your legs are stiff and sore for an entire day. I don’t say this as someone who has college theory behind me (although I do have college theory behind me) but as someone who has been there, done that, and has very bad memories of “the wrong way” to do it. Yes I am admitting that I have worked my legs too hard, done no stretching and then spent an entire day hobbling around wishing I wasn’t so stupid. Of course anyone who knows me also knows that I have a repaired disk in my back and genetically bad hips that play a role in all this too.

Now of course I work my legs AFTER I work my lower torso to exhaustion. This solves a couple of problems in that it stretches out my back real good, and it makes it so that I don’t skimp on my abdominal and oblique routines like I always did when I did them after my legs. For some reason I never skimp on my legs anymore but that is probably because they are the final frontier of an otherwise decent physique. I always do some light sets of
Romanian Deadlifts and Strait Leg Deadlifts to help with the transition from low back to legs and to get my hamstrings tweaked a little bit, but the real warm up actually comes in my first real sets for my legs. Equally important is the way I stretch my legs between each Giant Set that I do on the leg press machine.

The Giant Set: Is basically just 4 or more distinct weight lifting sets that are done together as 1 Giant Set. With the Giant Set that I do on the leg press machine I am simply doing one exercise for the upper leg, one exercise for the lower leg, one exercise for the upper leg and finishing with one exercise for the lower leg. The fact that I do this comes from a day when all of the 45 plates were being used elsewhere and I had to figure out a way to get a good workout in.
Until that point I used to just press and keep going until the machine held no more weights, so when I came up with this variation, I was surprised that I spent the next day hobbling around wishing I wasn’t so stupid. Yeah I realize that I told you all that you don’t want to do that, but it is also a good sign that you are onto something. This is where the stretching routine between sets came in.

  1. Well in this configuration I would start with wide width foot placement and make sure that my knees would go as far down as I could get them. In a dream world they would be in my armpits but in the real world they only feel like it.
  2. Then I would move my feet down so that I could do toe-presses for my calves. The goal here is to get full range of motion and try not to bounce the weight.
  3. Then my feet get positioned into a narrow width placement for more leg presses. The goal here is to get your knees right against your chest. If you are only doing half presses then you are wasting time, so get that full range of motion.
  4. Last I would move my feet down for narrow toe presses and like the last ones, full range of motion and not bouncing the weights is the key.

The first set of these should be at no more than 90lbs. Yep all you umber-hulks out there who consider that a girlie weight, just give it a try and do perfect sets of 12 reps each. Hen move directly into the stretching routine right after you put a couple of more 45s on the leg press machine. Yep your next set will be at 180 but after you do the stretches. Don’t think of the stretches as a waste of time, think of them as relaxation time. I can really get my zen on as I do my stretching. You will do hard counts of 40 when you do each stretch. A hard count is breath in 1 breath out 2 breath in 3 breath out 4 etc.

  1. First part of the stretches is the tippie toes, which you can see in the video. Really dig in there and try to flex your quad muscles at the same time as you are placing strain on your calf muscles.
  2. Then the fall back stretch so that you can get your hamstrings and your lower back real good. It will also stretch your calves in the supine position.
  3. Back to tippie toes for a hard count of 40.
  4. Last you do each leg in a Spider Man stretch. The key here is to really feel it in the quadriceps and the opposite hamstring at the same time. Don’t worry about people looking at you, they are just trying to figure out if they should be doing what you are doing, and yes Damnit they should.

Now I usually do these stretches for the first two or three Giant Sets and then for each Giant Set after that I usually just take a walk around. Go up by 90 lbs on each Giant Set for as many as you are able to do all four parts for at least 8 reps each, but 12 is always the goal. I can usually tap out at about 540 lbs on these specific Giant Sets. Don’t worry about all your uber-head friends who talk about 1400 lb leg presses, the goal of these is to build muscle and stamina, not show off, because as my first rule of the Gym is: You don’t go to the gym to show off, you go to the gym to be able to show off elsewhere. That is always the key to looking and feeling your best. Now go get your healthy on!