The Importance of Stretching

Q: How important is stretching to a weightlifter?

A: To some extent it depends on the individual, a statement that applies to any fitness pursuit. Basically, the training protocol you implement needs be something that will accomplish your goals.

Even so, most lifters don’t have crystalline goals, or they have goals that are, frankly, misguided or extremely mediocre. With rare exceptions of those for whom the practice of mobility training is ingrained—for example, advanced yogis, dancers or gymnasts—virtually no one has sufficient mobility. The truth is, in the hierarchy of movement and training priorities, mobility is always the most important.

Now, it’s possible to set a very low bar for mobility and, once you have it, not worry too much about it. For instance, once you can comfortably do a squat, you probably don’t need to continue to mobilize to the point of doing a split. Even if you can access your desired range of motion, you should do maintenance work for flexibility every day as part of your training.

While that’s a good notion in principal, in practice it just doesn’t happen—the overwhelming majority of lifters in the gym, along with more than 95 percent of the general American population, are pathologically immobile. As a result, we can all use an aggressive mobility protocol.

To get the best results, follow a sound system of stretching. Always begin with the larger muscle groups, such as the lower back and glutes. Knees-to-chest stretches done on the floor, working both single-leg and double-leg variations will work.

Then move to your hamstrings, doing a controlled sit-and-reach movement, plus lying abdominal and hip flexor stretches. Next do groin and twisting-torso stretches, followed by arm circles, calf stretches and rotations.

On static stretches hold the farthest point for about 10 to 15 seconds. Relax for five seconds, and repeat.

Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MHP athlete,

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