How to Properly Execute Stretching after Weightlifting Workout

One of the biggest complaints I get from patients and athletes is the feeling of “tightness” in their hips from lifting. The second thing I hear from them is they are performing a variety of stretches and not seeing much of an improvement in this feeling of tightness. There could be a few different reasons these athletes are not seeing an improvement in this feeling of tightness. However one of the more likely is that they are using static stretching for the wrong reasons.

Most people use stretching before their workouts to “warm up” or “increase the length of tissues” to improve “flexibility”. However, there are more effective and safer ways to warm up to the body for the big lifts that you are about to perform. 

The reason why this topic is even more important for powerlifters and olympic weightlifters is because they require as much power and spring as they can get to be success in their sport. They also are at a high risk for injury than other sports due to the high load they need to move quickly to complete a lift. 

So, why shouldn’t you stretch before your lifts? And why is stretching not the most effective way to mitigate that hip “tightness” you may be experiencing?

  1. Static stretching before performing an exercise actually decreases the amount of power that muscle can produce:
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The above table displays the results from a study where they were comparing power output after performing static stretching, dynamic stretching (DYN), and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). The fact that there was an increase in power for DYN and PNF reinforces that fact that the body functions more efficiently after undergoing some type of activation or movement vs holding a static stretch.

2. Stretching before an activity like powerlifting can actually increase your risk for injury.

This is because when you stretch you are creating a slight increase in tissue length that you brain does not know how to control. Your brain is able to control the range of motion that you currently have. However if you increase this range even slightly but do not teach your brain how to control this new range you are setting yourself up for injury

3. If something in your body feels “tight” does not always mean that it needs to be “stretched”

For most people the feeling of “tightness” actually means that the muscle is being overworked because other muscles aren't working hard enough. Based off of this, it is more effective and safer to perform a corrective exercise to relieve tightness than to stretch that overactive muscle.

So what should you do during your warm up instead of stretch? Below are a few things you can start implementing into your warm up to ensure that you are actually decreasing your risk for injury and optimizing your performance.
  1. Foam rolling using a pin and stretch technique to start the warm up
  2. Followed by a simple activation exercise such as banded side steps
  3. Finishing with a more complex exercise that will somewhat mimic the movement you are about to perform. For example, bulgarian split squats

As previously mentioned, stretching does have a time and a place because at the end of the day it does feel nice to stretch and it does have some benefits. If you do want to keep stretching as part of your routine, I would recommend using it at night as a way to down regulate those muscles and help them relax before going to sleep. Research shows there is a pain relief aspect of static stretching that can help with recovery.

Watch the video below for a more in depth explanation of the above exercises and how to execute them properly

If you have specific questions or want more information on this topic, click the button below to speak with one of our specialists.


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