Stretching Strategies


I have over twenty years of experience in fitness, and my opinion is that you should only stretch muscles that are too tight, shortened from too much flexion, or otherwise imbalanced.

You should get a functional movement assessment from a fitness professional to determine which muscles are short and tight. Those muscles are the ones you should stretch before and after exercise. You can stretch them every day, and once a day is enough. Hold your stretches for 10 to 20 seconds.

When you stretch, you allow your joints to move in orthopedic ranges of motion. It’s important to increase your range of motion and be flexible because you are constantly needing to “load and explode” muscles in different positions. Just getting out of a chair or sofa can be hard if you have tight legs. If you are an athlete, it’s even more important to be flexible. For example, if you’re a golfer and you have tight shoulders and hips, you’ll never have an efficient backswing.

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Thinking outside the gym

Some of my favorite equipment

Some of my favorite equipment

I’ve been a fitness pro for over 20 years, and for most of that time I’ve been helping people find ways to move their bodies without chaining them to gym machines. In my opinion, machines can be harmful in the long run, because they don’t allow motion in all three dimensions, and they don’t require the body to recruit all of the muscles you would normally use to balance yourself in space. This can lead to muscle imbalances and eventually injury.

For cardio, I recommend walking–it’s low impact, it gets you outside, and it can make you mentally healthier as well as physically healthier. I prefer it to running, because running is very hard on the body, and eventually every serious runner experiences some kind of acute or chronic injury from the constant impact.

When it comes to strength training, bodyweight exercises are the best. One exception is traditional sit ups and crunches. By avoiding sit ups, you’re less likely to hurt your back, and you will recruit your whole core and not just the frontal abs. So what are some good core exercises?

Rotating while holding light weight–a medicine ball if you have it, or a laundry basket or tote bag with books in it if you need to improvise. Watch some videos to make sure you have proper form. Don’t rotate to the point of pain.

You can also perform plank exercises that work your core without the strenuous bending and flexing of sit ups.

For leg exercises, you can’t beat squats and lunges. Make sure you’re doing different kinds of these exercises that make you extend in all directions–side to side and front to back.

For your arms, you can do push ups and pull ups–be creative with the angles! You don’t have to do the traditional style–for pushups that can even be hard on your wrists. Try leaning forward and pushing up off a wall, or leaning backward and pulling yourself up with a suspension band or rope. Arm circles are also excellent for your upper arms.

Get creative, but be careful, and listen to your body.


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