Lifting weights and eating plenty of protein are crucial parts of any muscle-building program. But there's an often-overlooked activity that could help you reach your strength goals; stretching for less than 60 seconds.
Many of us stretch before or after a workout to avoid injury, coupled with the best foam rollers to aid recovery. A short massage over affected areas promotes blood flow to the region to help repair your muscles.
But despite its prevalence, there's been debate about whether you should stretch when it comes to building muscle. Some studies suggest it helps you get more flexible for a lift, while others claim it negatively impacts your strength training.
To settle the matter, a team of researchers reviewed previous papers on the subject and submitted their findings to the journal Frontiers in Physiology. It seems that how long you stretch for could make all the difference.
After analyzing the published research, the team found that stretching for less than 60 seconds as part of a more dynamic warm-up doesn't negatively impact your resistance training, and may even help in the long run by preventing injury.
Although it might be tempting to skip your warm-up and dive straight into the main workout, according to personal trainer Alice Liveing, it's a crucial part of any strength training routine.
Alice Liveing's strength-building workout advice
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She suggests choosing "movements that mimic or are similar to the pattern of what you're doing in your session" when planning your own workout routine. So, it's worth learning how to warm up as it prepares your body for exercise by literally warming you up.
This is crucial, as one study found that it takes more energy to damage or injure warmer muscles. So, a brisk, effective pre-workout warm-up means you can train hard without worrying about harming your body.
Importantly, research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that anyone "unable to participate in traditional strength training activities may be able to experience gains through stretching."
These findings suggest that stretching alone could be a great way to start building muscle without traditional bodyweight exercises or weight lifting. Over time, you'll get stronger and can gradually switch to resistance training.
Once you're prepared to take on your workout, you can use a set of the best adjustable dumbbells to start training your muscles. These customizable weights replace several dumbbells, and the space-saving design makes them ideal for any home gym.
It's also vital to focus on your form and learn how to lift weights properly. This way, you further reduce your risk of injury and get the most from your training, so you can get stronger and build muscle more effectively.
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James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.
In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.
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