What does “being fit” mean to you? Does it mean having a low-level of body fat? The ability to run long distances? The ability to run short distances quickly? Having a low BMI? Having huge muscles?
Being fit means different things to different people. However, many experts believe there are three core components that cannot be neglected to achieve a high level of fitness. The first is muscular efficiency. A lean, toned, and well-proportioned frame is important to a healthy metabolism and bodily function. Second would be the cardiovascular piece to this puzzle. Engaging in frequent cardiovascular exercise, that efficiently raises your training heart rate, will provide you with a wealth of benefits. Not only will you have improved lung and circulatory function, but you will realize a reduced risk for a plethora of life-threatening diseases and conditions.
The last part of this equation of health, and one that is frequently ignored, is flexibility. Flexibility training is vital to your overall health and well-being. Engaging in just 10 minutes of stretching most days a week is all that is required to reap the benefits of having a flexible body. Flexibility has several benefits which include:
- Increased ability to perform exercises more efficiently, thereby allowing you to train better
- Improvement of blood circulation throughout your body
- Reduced risk of injury to muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Enhancement of muscle recovery when a stretching routine is performed after a workout
- Increased ability to generate muscle mass
Now, all of the benefits listed above are great, however, I’d like to expand a bit on our last point. Skeptical that stretching several times a week can lead to increased muscular gains? Let me explain how.
Muscles in the human body are encased by something called fascia. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that is quite tough and fibrous. Fascia is great in that it helps to protect our muscles and keep them in place, however, it often hinders the ability of the muscle to grow since it is so tightly wound around the muscle.
Eating a strict, protein-rich diet and training like a freak is great, but you will never realize your full potential if you are up against, stiff and tight fascia. Stretching loosens fascia so that a muscle has room to grow. Why put in all the effort of eating clean and working out like a maniac if you aren’t even able to reap the full benefits of that work. A little stretching will make any strength program instantly more effective.
Now, I know many guys who completely ignore their flexibility. They view it as something that is unimportant to achieving their overall goals of gaining lean muscle mass. Clearly, this is something that should not be ignored. What if you could instantly improve the effectiveness of your time spent in the gym by doing one simple thing? Wouldn’t you want to do it? You’re killing yourself, constantly changing your routine to promote growth, and training to failure. Make all of that sacrifice all the more beneficial by introducing flexibility training into your routine. Whether it’s after you’re done weightlifting, or something you do for 10 minutes before bed, stretching is guaranteed to help your muscles grow faster.
When stretching, there are some key points to keep in mind. These points include:
- Stretch to point of tension, not pain
- Breath naturally during your stretch
- Hold each stretch for three 20-30 second intervals
- If you experience serious burning or pain, back off
- Gradually increase the stretch over each interval, especially when stretching a cold muscle
Give a stretch routine a try, either at the gym or at home, and start reaping all the benefits that this often overlooked component of fitness can bring about.