Q: OK, so I've been trying to work my butt and it's just not happening. It continues to stay saggy and flabby. I tried working it everyday like you said in this article --- OK, I admit I do it 3-4 times a week, not every day. Do you have some other techniques/ideas?
A: Sure! When it comes to working out a weak body part, there are tons of techniques out there! Some work better than others, and it really depends on several factors, but basically boils down to the body part, that is, your specific body part, and the time and energy you are willing to devote to getting it where you want it to be.
That being said, let's delve into...
8 WAYS TO WORK YOUR GLUTES.
Technically, you can use the following techniques for ANY WEAK BODY PART.
1. Do an Isolation Exercise Followed by a Compound Exercise. As described in this article HERE, you want to first pre-exhaust the glute muscles (as well as activate them) by doing an exercise solely for the glutes before then moving onto doing a compound exercise in which several body parts are being worked. A good example is doing a glute bridge before doing a squat.
2. Go for High Reps. Usually when people hear high reps they think in the 12-15 range, which is what's recommended for endurance. Here we're talking high reps 30 to more like 50 reps, even a 100 reps. The idea behind this is that with an area like the glutes which tends to have more fat, there is less circulation than in, say, the shoulders. By going for high reps you are increasing the circulation in the area, which will allow for more nervous tissue activation. Remember that the muscular system works hand in hand with the nervous system, so sometimes the issue is that the nervous system needs to get revved up first and then the muscular system can catch up.
3. Pyramid Down. Start by using a heavier weight and start doing some reps. When you can't do any more, reduce the weight and continue to crank out more reps. You can continue to drop the amount of weight you are using again and again until you are using body weight only.
This idea of using different weights when paired with using high reps in idea #2 above is an excellent technique to target the glutes. A simple way to illustrate is to start with TWO 10-pound ankle weights attached to the leg and doing donkey kicks or leg raises. When the glutes are toast, drop one of the ankle weights and continue to crank out more reps. When you can't get in any more, go for body weight only until your glute says "that's it!" then repeat on the other side.
Another way you can do drop sets (aka pyramiding down) is to use a pulley machine (OR different resistance bands) and continue to drop the weight (OR go down a band) each time you can't do any more reps. The great thing about using cables/bands is that they let you work each glute one at time. Since most of us have one side which is weaker (and on compound movements like squats the stronger glute will take over), this will allow you to effectively make sure each side is getting its "fair workout dose."
4. Go for Triple and Quadruple Sets. Instead of just doing one butt exercise and then going to work another leg part, the inner thighs let's say, do 3 or 4 butt exercises one after the other. You can go for high reps for each exercise as in idea #2 OR just stick to the usual 6-8, 12-15 reps. The idea here is to really target the glutes with several different exercises to work the muscle differently but to really fatigue the muscles. Working with machines, cables/bands and dumbbells adds further variation by targeting the muscle in different ways.
5. HIIT Glutes/Legs. Similar to idea #4 above, make your next HIIT routine leg focused. Don't bother adding in abs and upper body exercises. Make every exercise a leg exercise, such as: front, side and back lunges; switch lunges; squats and plyo squats; front, side and back kicks; jumping jacks, etc. Bodyrock has some great leg HIIT workouts :)
6. Add in the Pulse. You'll notice this technique in a lot of aerobic classes, but it's also used in weight lifting: you reduce the range of movement of the exercise by doing little pulses. Often this involves doing pulses at the "sticking point," which is the point at which the exercise is the hardest. Not always, though, as you can do pulses at the top, mid or bottom range of the movement, depending upon which needs more work. Here's a 20-min workout vid demonstrating the pulse for glutes and legs :)
7. Work It Every Single Day With Different Exercises. OK, so let's say you are a pilates fan. There are lots of different ways you can work your glutes. So, on the first day choose a few pilates exercises that work the glutes and then on the next day, do different pilates exercises that still target the glutes. On the next day after that, you repeat the exercises you did on the 1st day (OR if there are still some other different pilates moves you haven't done, you can do those). On the 4th day, repeat the exercises you did on the 2nd day and so on for the 5th, 6th, etc days. If you're wondering just how many reps and sets to do, it really depends on how much time you have (and how sore you are!).
If you're thinking, wait a minute, I don't do pilates, no worries! You can do different track and field exercises OR ballet exercise OR cross fit exercises. The idea is to work the glutes every day but using different exercises that will target the muscle in a different way. You can do body weight only or use some weight and see how it goes. If your glutes are sore the next day, you can always try body weight only.
A few examples:
8. Cross Train the Glutes. Similar to idea #7 above, do different exercises to work the glutes, not necessarily specific to just one sport. For example, let's say you do cardio 3x a week. One day you do the stairclimber, another day you do a HIIT routine with lots of leg work and the last day you run at various speeds on a treadmill (e.g. 2 minutes running at 10 mph followed by running or walking at 5 mph per hour and then repeating for 30 minutes).
When it comes to doing weights, you could vary it up by one day doing machines, one day doing pilates, and one day doing ballet. OR, as another example, let's say you work your legs 2x a week. Do heavier weights on those 2 days and the other days which are "off," go for body weight only exercises and do a 5 minutes pilates routine on those days. OR do some ballet exercises for 20 minutes (different options here depending on what you like and how much time you have on your off days). Ballet, ballet barre and pilates, FYI, are great ways to work in a lot of those small stabilizer muscles in the legs and use high reps to bring circulation and tone the area.
As you can see, there are lots of different options. In fact, if you're wondering if there are still other ideas out there, the answer is, of course! Some might find pyramiding up works for them while other while others are really keen on working the legs with low reps and high weight. Still others might really enjoy the cardio route and find skating or rollerblading is really what does it for them. And since there are lots of yummy options out there, there is sure to be 1 or more ways that you'll find to "hit the spot!"
To great glute days ahead,
It happens. You work out, you work out, you work out, and you get sore muscles. Or tight muscles. Or muscle cramps. You stretch, but nothing doing. What to do?
10 Tips & Tricks for Sore Muscles
1. Try PNF Stretching. If you tried doing static stretching , which is what most people do, and it didn't do much, try doing PNF stretching. Essentially, you are tensing the opposite muscle to the one you are stretching. You can read more Here.
2. Get a Massage. Nothing like unwinding and releasing that stress with massage. While a Swedish massage is nice an relaxing, go for deep tissue if it's really bothersome.
3. Get to Foam Rolling. As also explained in the same article I wrote previously, foam rolling helps to release tension in the fascia, which is connective tissue overlaying the muscle. It's a cheap alternative to getting a massage as you can buy a foam roller from a big box store for about $30. Rolling over the tight area you'll feel that sensitivity, so go easy and use a lighter pressure initially. Here's a How-to Foam Roll for Muscles of the Legs. Yes, it does works.
4 & 5. Try Gua Sha or Moxa. These are treatments used in acupuncture/acupressure, and you can read more about them HERE (scroll down to the end of the page). Basically, gua sha is where a spoon or other object is scraped along your back and neck, excellent for releasing back and neck tension. Don't worry about the marks left, they fade in a few days and aren't painful. Moxa is like a fat incense stick that is placed closed to certain points on the body. Since it's a heat source, it can help to release muscular tension, especially useful for sciatica and lower back pain.
6. Cupping. Cupping is another Chinese medicine technique that you can do with or without acupuncture/acupressure. In fact, you can buy the cups on your own and DIY, or get a friend to help you. These silicone cups create a suction effect on your skin and are great for releasing shoulder, back and neck tension. Like with gua sha, the marks will fade in a few days and aren't painful. The darker the color, FYI, the more "stagnation" (aka muscular tension). Personally, I find cupping to be great for releasing shoulder, neck and upper back tension (think traps, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, rotator cup muscles and lats). Also nice for the pecs as well.
7 & 8. St John's Wort & Comfrey Oil. Both of these oils are tools you definitely want to have in your arsenal. They are great for sprains, strains, bruises and muscular tension. Comfrey is excellent to help heal broken bones while St John's Wort excels in repairing nerve damage. You might want to take Comfrey internally as an infusion for further healing. You can buy the seeds for either plant and grow them yourselves, then infuse the top 1/3rd of the flowering plant in oil.
To do: chop the plant with scissors to small pieces and place in a mason jar, slightly packed. Pour olive oil to cover, ensuring all the herb is submerged under the oil. Cap and let sit for 6 weeks. Use a sieve lined with a coffee filter to strain out the oil. Store the oil in a dark bottle in a cool location. Apply liberally and massage into the area.
You can also buy these oils online, although making it yourself is much cheaper!
9 & 10. Magnesium & B12. This might be an obvious one (or not), but muscular tension can sometimes be attributed to a lack of magnesium in the diet. Get in a good quality supplement (often paired with calcium in a 1:1 ratio) and take before bedtime (also helps with sleep). Good sources of magnesium include chocolate or dark cacao (go for bitter 70% +), grains, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, avocados, bananas and dried figs.
If you happen to be a vegan for a while and haven't been taking any B12 supplement, your muscle cramping might due to a deficiency. Make sure you get a blood test to check your levels. B12 sublingual is a cheap supplement that can easily be purchased from most health food stores or online.
Combination Therapy. You can obviously pair a few of these tips and tricks together. For example, you can stretch and do foam rolling after a workout, go for a massage using St. John's Wort oil and take magnesium at bedtime--- or however you like to combine different these different therapies :)
And did I mention that Rest, by the way, is another good option? ;)
To pain-free days ahead,
Sure, there are tons of weight lifting exercises to work your shoulders. Like shoulder presses, front and lateral raises, shrugs and upright rows. And let's not forgot working those rotator cuff muscles such as external rotation and planks to develop shoulder stability (whether you have an injury or not, it's a good idea to include 1 or 2 exercises a week into your exercise program to strengthen the rotator cuff as injuries are very common).
And while weight bearing exercises are excellent for building both strength and endurance, there are other fun ways you can work out your shoulders, burn calories and get in some cardio at the same time.
Here are 5 Interesting Workouts to get Toned Shoulders.
1. Poi Veil, Fan Veil, Silk Veil or Isis Wings.
All of these workouts are inspired from belly dancing and use some kind of material that you'll be twirling and moving around with your arms (click each of the links to see more about each one).
Most of the positions start at shoulder level and involve working the shoulders in all 3 planes (frontal, transverse and sagittal) so that you are working the joint in all 5 movement patterns: flexion, extension, abduction, adduction and rotation.
Besides holding that veil in place, you'll be shimming around the floor as you work your legs and core for a total body workout. Veils and DVD workouts can be found online such on Amazon and Ebay. Free workouts can be found on YouTube.
Check your area for classes!
2. Pole Fitness.
Yes, pole fitness -not dancing- has become a hot new craze! That's because using a pole to climb and do all kinds of acrobatic tricks on requires both upper body and core strength. Think about doing chin ups to get up that pole, kinda like Rope Climbing or Rock Climbing. These all have similar patterns of climbing up a vertical object, however pole fitness takes it much further by having to twirl, do inverted positions, and hold yourself upside down using inner thigh strength. Plus, you can even incorporate some floor work as well as using the pole, such as doing handstands, the splits and other acrobatic moves.
You can buy your own pole to use at home on Amazon, find DVDs online, or start with some beginner moves from the many free videos on YouTube. There are poles made for those who are overweight and you can invest in some chalk or pole grip gel to keep your hands from sliding. Check your area for classes as it's quite the hot new total body workout rage nowadays!
OK, so you already knew that this is an excellent cardio workout used in lots of different sports, such as boxing, crossfit and track-&-field to name a few. But did you know that you can get toned shoulders from doing skipping? Oh yes you can! If you've ever done a grueling shoulder workout and then gone skipping for cardio the next day (or the same day), you'll know what I'm talking about! You can also get more of a shoulder workout by holding the rope at a more horizontal position, so that the ropes are further apart from each other. You can also try using a weighted rope which will provide more resistance and give you a better shoulder workout.
No need to skip in place either (although if you do, there are tons of different moves you can do instead of just the basic hop). Go outdoors and find a bike/pedestrian path or a smooth trail where you can skip-to-your-loo as you would jogging. If you find the pavement a bit harsh on your knees, you can always give this a go on grass, although be mindful that there will be more resistance.
Remember: skip ropes are dirt cheap and are an easy way to get in a workout. No fancy gym membership required---although you might want to listen to some of your fave grooves while you skippity-hoppity along ;)
4. Battle Rope
Just looking at the position of the ropes you can already feel your shoulders burning, can't you? It's quite the upper body and core workout, but certainly there's a lot of leg movement involved in that you can incorporate squats and lunges while thrashing those ropes about---making battle rope yet another fantastic total-body workout.
You might not find this in every gym, but you can certainly get yourself some rope and attach it securely to an object, like an outdoor fence or weighted down smith machine. Ropes do come in various thickness and heaviness, although you can purchase ones specifically designed for battle rope.
While you do need a good amount of space for doing battle rope, a park or your backyard can easily provide all the space you need. With not much needed besides you, rope and some nice weather, battling rope is a great workout alternative to the standard cardio routine. Try doing different rope exercises using a timer (aka doing a HIIT routine) or incorporate rope exercises with other HIIT movements such as burpees, plyo lunges and skaters.
5. Ballet Barre
Now you know ballet is an amazing form of dance to develop long, lean legs, but those arm positions will certainly help you to get toned shoulders. Whether following a barre class or a free vid on YouTube, you'll notice that all the while doing plies, grand battements and other leg movements, your arms will usually be in 2nd or 5th position (or moving from 2nd to 5th position). You can also use weights and add a few of these ballet moves to your shoulder workout routine.
Of course, all those arm positions are a great way to build your posture, something that many dancers are well aware of. Get inspired to try a few moves on your lighter training days or as a cooldown with a few of these exercises HERE.
To strong, toned shoulders and great looking posture,
Think you need a gym, do you? Think again! This Cardio/Weight Time-Volume ONE exercise ONLY will have you dripping with sweat!
Got a sandbag? Or two? How about a bag of salt or two? Yep, if you live in an area where you get ice, you'll know what I mean by those 10kg bags of salt. Dumbbells and a bar also work well too :)
Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. Sure, you can go to 30 minutes.
You'll be squatting, by the way, until the time is up!
Here's the Workout
With a salt, sandbag, dumbbell or bar on your shoulders, do 10 squats. Rest 10 seconds. Now repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat until 15 minutes (or more) has elapsed. That's it!
Let's look at some Modifications, shall we?
To great legs & booty, pumped up-cardio time and a sweatier, fitter, leaner YOU,
This is a great technique that you can use for most body parts to target all muscle fibers, that is, type I, type IIa and type IIb. Essentially, these different types of muscle fibers represent different kinds of training and will produce different results in the body. In short, type I fibers are endurance fibers where 12-15 reps is the usual standard; type IIa fibers are a type of fast twitch fibers good for medium strength where the usual recommendation is 6-8 reps and type IIb fibers are fast twitch muscle fibers which are all about strength and power and the usual recommendation is 1-3 reps.
When you go and see a personal trainer, you'll probably get the question, so what are you looking to train for? To which the answer will be OK, endurance so let's get you doing 10-15 reps on this exercise. And then you'll see power lifters doing heavy weights and going for 1-3 reps.
Using this technque, however, you can work all three muscle fibers, which means you are tapping into BOTH endurance and strength. This is a great technique to use for weight loss, because you are flooding the area with lactic acid with high reps and then cranking out a few more reps using a higher weight, which forces your muscles to recruit more fibers, work harder and rev up that metabolism.
Here's how it works:
Pick your body part (e.g triceps). Use a light weight, enough that you can get 12-30 reps. Rest 20 seconds then use a HIGHER weight so that you can get 6-8 (even 10-12) reps. Rest 20 seconds and use another HIGHER weight so that you can get in 3-6 reps (it might only be 1-2). If you can up the weight still, do one FINAL set of 1 REP MAX, that is, a set of ONE rep. A good rule of thumb is to up the weight by 2.5-5 lbs.
Now, you are increasing the weight 4 times on ONE body part. You don't have to do it like that, you could just do high reps and then superset with a higher weight one time, OR you could do high reps and then triple set with a higher weight 2 more times.
In terms of reps, you can also play with the numbers, but you want minimum 12 reps for the 1st set. It could be 15, 20, 30 reps and understandably the weight is going to be low. For the 2nd set, aim for about HALF the number of sets compared to your 1st set. So, if you did 30 reps on the 1st set, go for 12-15. If you did 12 reps on the 1st set, go for 6-8 reps. When it comes to the 3rd set, the reps will depend on how fatigued your muscles are. I've done this technique and only been able to sometimes get in ONE rep on that 3rd set (meaning no need for a quadruple set, because I've already hit my one rep max). Go for HALF the number of sets compared to the 2nd set. So, if you did 6-8 on the second set, aim for 3-4 on the 3rd set. Then, if you want you can add one more set and make it just ONE rep.
Yes, it's true you can PYRAMID DOWN and do the exact OPPOSITE! In other words, you can do 3-4 sets and DROP the weight each time while adding MORE REPS each time. This is another great option and is really good for cranking out reps. Again, a good rule of thumb is to drop the weight by 2.5-5 lbs. I really like using this technique for bicep curls. E.g. 20 lbs 6-8 reps, 15 lbs 10 reps, 10 pounds 12 reps and 8 pounds 15 reps. When you DROP the weight, you can even ADD MORE sets. So in my bicep example, you can add 2 more sets by then dropping down to 5 pounds at 15-20 reps and then 2.5 pounds at 20+ reps. When you DROP the weight, you can:
I like to crank them out with No Rest and Get It Done, but it also depends on the kind of day I'm having ;)
I must admit that pyramiding UP is QUITE THE CHALLENGE, so do it on a day when you've got the energy. I do find that PYRAMIDING UP works a bit more on strength, which means that PYRAMIDING DOWN works more on endurance. If you take my example of biceps curl, 5 sets X say 10 reps = 50 bicep curls, that's a lot of curls so you're definitely working much more on endurance. In comparison, if you were to pyramid up, you'd be doing 12 reps+8+4+1 = 25 reps, so that's about half the number of rep at a higher weight, in other words, more strength based.
FYI: Here's a video demonstrating how you can put the technique of pyramiding UP using quadruple sets into action. This is an example of using deadlifts.
All in all, I find that whether you pyramid up or down, you are able to get in a higher load in a shorter amount of time than the usual recommendation of doing 3 sets of x number of reps and waiting around each time between sets (a very popular and common technique). Since many people have tight schedules, I find using the pyramiding scheme to be an EXCELLENT STRATEGY for building strength/mass (pyramiding UP) and endurance (pyramiding DOWN) in a faster amount of time. I also find that using either one is a GREAT WAY to GET CUT, TONED and LOSE WEIGHT.
You can use this for ANY BODY PART with EXCELLENT RESULTS!
Give it a try and see how it goes :)
To your fit and healthy body,
Q: I'm just too pooped to workout today. What to do when you feel that way?
A: Try this: go for a jog and just start out with a warmup. Tell yourself you are ONLY going around the block. You can start with actually doing a very slow jog or just start with walking. If you feel still so tired that you just want to come back and rest, then go home and rest. Seriously. Watch a movie, get in some reading or go to bed. Take it easy.
Do the same with weight training. Some days you want to train like you usually do but your body just isn't feeling that way. Respect what your body is telling you. Try using lighter weights (e.g. go 2.5-5 pounds lighter or even lighter still) and/or go for higher reps. You can also take a little more rest between sets or even do a different but lighter workout than you usually do. Examples:
In short, try adapting your exercise routine that day to make it a lighter work load. If that fails and your body just isn't having it, then throw in the towel and get in some needed R&R. Your body will thank-you and will be back up to par or even want to train harder next time around.
To balanced days ahead,
Q: Do you recommend working out if you have a cold or flu?
~Sick to Workout
A: If you are sick, your immune system is trying to recreate needed homeostasis for proper body functioning. Depending on how you feel and how sick you are, you might be able to get in some cardio. Going for a jog, walk or bouncing on a trampoline will tap the aerobic system and help with circulation. You'll be able to burn some calories while working out and once done, your body might feel better with that extra oxygen boost (indicating that your body is on the mend) OR it might feel tapped out and really need to rest. In that case, REST.
Weight training is different in that you are using a different energy system (anaerobic): you are using a catabolic process (aka hypertrophy) to create tears in the muscle and then repair itself. That means that after you finish working out, your body is still in the process of repairing itself and requires needed protein to do that work. Since your body is already occupied with fighting some nasty germs in the system, you might want to therefore:
Remember that having a cold vs. the flu is not the same thing. When you have the flu, you have a fever, muscle and body aches, a sore throat, stuffed up and/or runny nose, maybe a headache, lack of concentration, and a host of other symptoms --- not exactly the ideal mind frame to want to be working out. The Bottom Line is that as with any exercise program, using your body and its signals to see where it's at are really the best measures to decide what course of action to take.
So listen to your body and do what's best for you!
To healthy days ahead,
Q: Can rebounding be a viable way of getting in a workout?
~Quick to Work it
A: Absolutely! Rebounding on a trampoline is an excellent, low-impact way that doesn't put stress on the ankle and knee joints, and can be as effective if not better than running! 10-20 minutes of rebounding is what's usually recommended.
Benefits of Rebounding are Many and Include:
Interestingly, astronauts know all about the beneficial effects of using the G-force to work on cells and increase mitochondrial functioning, which you can read more about Here and Here.
A Few Ways of Working out on a Trampoline:
The basic bounce, high knees, squats and jumping jacks give you a lower body workout by strengthening your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Your core also benefits.
If you add in dumbbells while bouncing around, you can get in an upper body workout and work your shoulders, triceps and biceps.
Once the cardio part is over, you can get in some ab work on the trampoline (e.g. situps and planks) and even use the side of the trampoline to work the chest by doing pushups.
Check on YouTube for workout ideas. It's not that hard to bounce around and is mighty fun! You can rebound while watching TV and there are cheap models you can buy from big box stores such as Walmart and other fitness stores.
To happy bouncy days ahead,
Q: So recently I was talking to a friend and he noticed my flabby butt. I work out and always knew my butt to be flabby, but never really understood why. I mostly go on the cardio machines at the gym, but would like to incorporate weights, especially for my butt! My friend started talking about glute activation and saying if you're glutes aren't firing, you aren't working out properly. Can you tell me more about glute activation and recommend some butt exercises?
~Flabby in the Rear
A: The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in your body. Unfortunately, many of us spend most of our time during the day sitting on our butts instead of working them out! Glute activation means that you should be able to squeeze your butt muscles, one cheek at a time. So, if you are sitting all day, a good exercise is to "activate" your glute muscles by squeezing one cheek, holding for 5-10 seconds, then releasing and squeezing the other cheek. Repeat this a few times throughout the day. You can also do this exercise while you are standing, like when you are waiting in line at the grocery store.
Some people can only squeeze both cheeks at the same time, and that's fine, just work your way to being able to squeeze 1 cheek at a time. If you can't squeeze your butt at all, that's when you really need to start incorporating a few exercises in order to recruit muscle fibers to the area. Excellent exercises to help with glute activation are the clamshell and glute bridge (one 1 leg or on both legs ---> read more about those exercises HERE); and donkey kicks, hip circles and fire hydrants (you can read more about those exercises HERE).
Now, if your butt muscles aren't "firing," this can lead to or be a sign that you have problems, tightness and/or pain with your back, hips and knees. And that means that when you do go to work out your butt and legs, other stronger muscles will take precedence in your workout and your butt will continue to be weak (most commonly, the quads tend to get stronger and take over in exercises like squats and lunges).
Speaking of working the glutes, when it is "leg workout day," you want to be able to squeeze your glutes while doing an exercise. For example, when you are coming up from doing a squat, you want to be able to squeeze your butt muscles as you are coming up. If you are NOT able to squeeze your glutes, then they will continue to be weak and underdeveloped. If this is your case, do one of the exercises mentioned previously (the glute bridge and clamshell, for example) BEFORE doing squats, lunges, dead lifts, etc.
Besides traditional leg exercises such as squats, lungs and dead lifts, excellent exercises that target your butt include hip thrusts, split squats and kettlebell swings (you can use a dumbbell for that last exercise). Read more about those exercises HERE. Be sure to work your legs 2-3x a week.
Last tip: as mentioned in THIS POST, if your butt is your weak body part, then you can work your butt EVERY SINGLE DAY. Take 1 or 2 exercises like the hip thrust, glute bridge or clamshell, and do as many as you can 1-2x a day, every single day. By using bodyweight only exercises, you will be gentle on your body while at the same time telling it to get those muscles activated, fired up and strong again!
To tighter tushies,
Q: I was wondering if I should stretch at the end of a workout, or at both the beginning and end of a workout?
~Stuck on Stretching
A: Generally speaking, you want to stretch at the end of your workout, however it does depend upon the activity. For example, if you are in a ballet class where flexibility is needed, then after your warm up (you NEVER want to stretch your muscles when they are cold), you would do some stretching, and perhaps again at the end of your workout. In contrast, getting off the treadmill after a 5 minute warm-up to stretch and then go back on (and this is in a crowded gym) is not necessary and can be done after your cool-down. Note however that if you do have injuries, stretching before AND after a workout is a good idea.
When it comes to stretching, be mindful that there are 4 types of stretching: Active, Dynamic, Passive and Static. Most people thinking of stretching in the static form, where you are holding a body part to feel a stretch for 20-30 seconds (like in the image at the top of this post) or passive stretching, where you are using an object to help you get a better stretch, such as with a yoga block.
Dynamic stretching (sometimes called a dynamic warm-up) is often used in sports before a game or practice and involves doing 10-12 repetitions of working comfortably through a range of motion.
Active stretching is where you are contracting a muscle opposite to the one you are stretching, such as in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitated stretching (or PNF). PNF is an excellent way of helping you achieve better flexibility.
Finally, another way you can release tense muscles is to use foam rolling. Foam rolling is a self myofascial release technique (it works on the fascia or connective tissue of the muscle) where you roll the tense muscle (specifically, the trigger point <- that means where it hurts!) over a foam roller for 30-60 seconds. Avoid rolling over joints and bones. Note that foam rollers come in different lengths and hardness and can be easily purchased from Amazon and other fitness stores.
Good luck on improving your flexibility!
To tense-free days ahead,
Fit Tips & Workouts by Cat Wilson
Go ahead, Get Fit! Your Body Deserves It...and So Do You :)
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