Extending Your Reach: An Appeal for Stretching

Text by Conner Dial
Photos by Vishwang Gowariker

The body requires consistent upkeep. It’s like a bike you’ve forgotten about in the garage—if you don’t grease its gears, it will rust beyond the point of use. Weight-lifting and aerobic exercise are not only the most popular approaches to total body wellness, but they’re also the most convenient. The results, if combined with a good diet, are tangible. But there’s another key ingredient to add to this holy trifecta: stretching. 

To be honest, stretching does seem outdated, it falls somewhere between shake weights and exercise belt massagers. It’s also time consuming, for results that are superficially mediocre at best. It’s difficult to commit to another ten to fifteen minutes when your PWN (Post-Workout nap) is so, so close.

But if you really want to build a well-rounded physique, inside and out, stretching is vital.

There are two major types of stretching: dynamic stretching and static stretching. 

Dynamic, or active stretching, is a great way to warm up the body before you face the meat of your workout. The best dynamic stretches activate the muscles you’ll use in your workout. Try groiners and lunges before squats, and warm up your rotator cuffs with band dislocations before your bench press session. Warming up these muscles not only prevents injury, but it will also allow you to lift heavier weights with time. 

Static stretching is the typical stretching you probably did in middle school gym class. These stretches are best done in between sets and after your workout. Why not keep the blood flowing with a simple ten second toe touch rather than sit down? 

It’s amazing how interconnected our bodies are: lower back problems are associated with tight hip flexors and weak abdominal muscles, tight chest muscles are the cause for rounded shoulders. 

If we apply the same focus that we give to burning calories or lifting weights to body stretches, we’ll be able to recover faster and better enjoy our lives outside of the gym.