Stretch your fitness
Drop flexibility in favour of strength? Don’t! The humble stretch sesh could be your ticket to a longer, leaner shape
Ditching the stretch at the end of your workout? Don’t! Longer muscles create a leaner shape and more strength
For most of us, stretching’s been consigned to the cool-down – an inconvenience tacked onto the end of your ‘real’ sweat session. It’s not really doing much, right? Uh-uh. The fact is, substituting some of your cardio or strength time for a good stretch could make your workouts more effective and sustainable.
“To increase muscle mass, the body has to produce new collagen proteins,” explains
Tony Kay, professor of biomechanics at the University of Northampton. “The more strength training you do, the more collagen you produce; the more collagen you have in muscles, the less elastin, and the stiffer the tissue.” In other words: all that strength work is killing your flexibility unless you stretch it out.
So is stretching any different to doing a few yoga asanas?
Yup. Unlike yoga, the focus isn’t mainly on your breath – it’s about the physical benefits of allowing muscles to stretch. Which means limbering up has significant strength rewards. “Increasing flexibility makes exercises like squats and dead lifts easier and reduces your risk of muscle soreness the next day,” says PT Luke Worthington.
Convinced? Good. Now try this month-long plan that’ll take you from stiff to supple, fast.