Strength Training continues to grow in popularity, more now than ever. It’s no wonder considering the many benefits – an increase in muscle size and strength, the ability to help maintain a lower body fat percentage, stress management, and, of course, the benefits we see in the mirror.
The few minutes you may (or may not) spend stretching after a workout are not effective enough to give you the benefits you need to keep you progressing at the gym, and keep your risk of injury to a minimum. An hour a week of proper, purposeful stretching will help keep you on your 4-5 hours a week schedule at the gym.
An avid weight trainer who focuses on upper bodywork came to us with lower back pain. A postural analysis was performed and it was identified that his shoulders were rounding forward. The anterior side (front) of his upper body became tight (overactive) due to the weight training, and the posterior chain (back) of the body became weaker (underactive).
The cause? Strength training shortens the muscles and creates microtears on the tissue during a workout. These microtears are caused by the tension placed on the muscle from using weights. Through this process, the length of the muscles is shortened, and over time, the more these fibers remain shortened, the more prone you became to injury and compromised posture.
The physiology of the body is very good at seeking equilibrium. The body will always seek a balance in which the body creates a stable environment. But in our client’s case, this new stable environment came at a cost. Rounded shoulders created an imbalance within the mid-line of this body, creating an improper posture. And thanks to gravity, the weight-bearing lumbar spine had to support more weight due to the slight protruding head that comes with rounded shoulders, resulting in lower back pain.
Stretching the muscles of the anterior portion of his upper body helped him regain better posture by lengthening the appropriate muscles. As the muscles lengthened, the rounding in his shoulders decreased. As his body found its new, more efficient equilibrium and his posture improved, the pain resolved as the pressure was taken off his lower back (primarily his Latissimus Dorsi).
We are often asked, “what is the best set of stretches for weight lifting?” The answer – there is no specific stretch regimen. It all depends on each person’s body blueprint, and what they need according to their overall assessment. Whether you’re a beginner, moderate or frequent gym member, every stretch protocol is different.
Our sessions helped him to better understand how his body works and how to be conscious of when his body is in need of a stretch. His workouts are more effective, his movements are more efficient, his training can progress, and he will reduce the risk of further pain or injury.