Grunt! Breathe. Grunt! Breathe. Grunt! Rip! ‘AAAHHH!’ Oh, the sound of not stretching. Many beginners, and even some experienced weightlifters, do not stretch before or after a workout.
Some forget and some just avoid stretching because they think of it as a waste of time. When injuries result, however, stretching seems much more worthwhile.
It is important to stretch before and after each workout to prevent injury and even build muscle. Before a lifting session, a person’s muscles are usually “cold” and stiff. The tighter the muscles are, the more susceptible the muscles and tendons are to injury while lifting weights (or any type of exercise, for that matter).
Muscles are “connected” to tendons, which are connected to bones. Tendons don’t stretch like muscles do. Even movements that are slightly abnormal or straining for the muscles can cause damage to muscle tissue or tendons that is more damaging than what usually occurs during lifting. The tighter the muscle is, the greater the pull of the muscle on the tendon (and thus the bone), which increases the chance of injury. When the muscles are stretched out even a little bit, they become warmer and more relaxed. When muscles are warm and more relaxed the chance of injury decreases because they have a greater ability to expand and contract.
After a workout, stretching is important because the muscles have been slightly damaged and tightened by the workout (which is what must happen for muscles to become bigger and stronger). Stretching after the workout relaxes the muscles that were bunched together while lifting weights. That will increase the blood flow to the muscles and tendon areas. The increased blood flow can help bring nutrients into the muscles that are needed to help rebuild them after lifting. The theory that this added blood flow actually helps build the muscles better has not been absolutely proven. But, there are a number of trainers that believe it helps to some extent.
Injury may not happen when lifting weights without stretching. But if it does, it will force an athlete into periods of time where he or she cannot work out. Stretching may seem like a waste of time, but it wastes much more time toward your long-term goals not being able to lift weights at all. All those who believe stretching is just for wimps should say that to any Mr. Universe or professional athlete. You’ll probably even get an extra special reaction from the ones who have been injured.