Real men run marathons, compete in Ironman championships, and lift bicep bulging weights. Real men sweat it out with cardio and cross training and meet the challenge of suspension training full on. What they don’t do is stretch. This somewhat macho and archaic attitude is what some men consider a manly way of working out. It still pulls some weight in the psyche of some men, who while trying to attain the ultimate fit physique, miss out or skim over stretching exercises. However, these men are definitely missing the point, as really fit men stretch!
Speak to any fitness expert, read any online exercise article and listen to any athlete and the same message will come back time and again: it’s vitally important to stretch. However, if you’re the type of man who likes to jump straight in after a few cursory bends and twists then you may be missing out on some of the real benefits that stretching has to offer.
All the latest research on an effective warm-up emphasizes dynamic stretching as opposed to static stretching. It’s important that before you get into your workout that you warm up with stretches that involve movements rather than simply standing still. These will follow some of the moves that you are going to be performing, whether you’re heading to a workout routine or a doing specific sport.
Think of this stretching as revving your body up so it picks up speed smoothly rather than jerking from 0-100 in an instant when you really don’t have the physiological makeup for that. What you are doing is preparing the body to be able to perform better. If you’re a competitive person or you simply want to do your best then think of stretching as a performance enhancer. You are getting blood flow and oxygen to muscles so that they can work hard.
Flexibility for muscle building
An ideal body type for a lot of men is to have clearly defined strong muscles, such as biceps and abs. Exercise promotes muscle building but as you build up definition and bulk you will find that these bigger muscle fibers become taut and not very flexible, unless you keep on stretching. It’s not enough to focus on strength; you need strength with range of motion too. If you keep abdominals stretched you are also helping protect your spine and improving your posture.
Stretching for less injury risk
In essence, by creating greater flexibility with stretching you are broadening your range of motion and increasing your mobility. This means that when you move in your workout, your body will be able to follow through with the challenges rather than restricting them. If you don’t stretch then this restriction can lead to you not being able to perform at your peak and you also increase your risk of injury.
Another benefit of stretching to increase your range of motion is that this improves your ability to lift weights in a certain way; in other words over a greater range of your body. Men who stretch and then strength train with greater movement find that their body recruits more muscle fibers. In turn this recruitment works your muscles more and makes them stronger.
So many men concentrate on hard core cardio that they burn out and stop by simply keeping on going until they can no longer keep up the pace. To these fitness types, cooling down with stretches might seem more suited to a female-oriented exercise class or a yoga session. However, static stretches as you slow down can be really beneficial to your body.
Taking your heart rate down slowly is far better than doing the equivalent of an emergency stop each time you stop the engine running on your fast track workout and this can lead to injury. Not only that, but if you suddenly halt the same level of blood pumping around the body and being oxygenated, then you might find that lactic acid pools in the muscles rather than being gradually dispersed. This can create aches and pains.
In reality, men who are stretching in the right way during a workout and also focusing on stretching alone are demonstrating that they really understand how their bodies work and what will make them really fit.