Going hard every time you train is a young and foolish man’s game. If you’re stiff, sore and racked with pain, your progress will soon drop off. This is how to keep your body in one very good piece for life.
No Pain. No Gain
High-intensity exercise causes micro-trauma to your muscle fibres, which can leave your joints crying out for some relief. However, aggressive stretching after a tough session can cause more damage. Keep it light to ensure that your muscles stay relaxed and to assist fibre realignment. Slowly push each stretch until you can feel the pull without pain, and you’ll be able to haul yourself out of bed without wincing.
Planning the sort of night that involves a beer or three? Then don’t sweat it. Just tweak tomorrow’s session schedule: alcohol can cut your testosterone levels by up to 25 per cent for about 12 hours, so train later in the day if you’ve had a few drinks the night before.
Rest days and cheat days are not one and the same. On days free from training, you need to restock your body’s glycogen levels, so low-GI carbs should make up around 40 per cent of your calorie intake. Think wholegrain rice, pulses and leafy greens. Remember, it’s not just what you eat but how it’s prepared – lightly boiled or steamed veg will have a lower GI value than anything that’s been fried in oil.
Make a Pre-emptive Strike
The best warm-up stretches mimic the move you’re about to perform, weight-free. Try good mornings with a pole before you deadlift to fire up your entire back, or an overhead squat stretch before you approach the rack: anything to get your target muscles ticking over.
Stretch for a Full 15
Tapping your toes won’t cut it. The most effective period to hold a stretch for is 15 seconds, but don’t waste your time. Keep it short and sweet: research suggests that longer stretches offer no extra benefits. Save the breathing exercises for yoga.
Range of Movements
Switch up the types of stretches you’re doing: during your warm-up, dynamic stretches can flood soft tissues with blood and oxygen, but post-workout, it’s better to stay static. Static stretching can lengthen and realign muscle fibres, developing flexibility and speeding up recovery.
While static stretching has its benefits, research from the University of Sydney suggests that it does little to relieve muscle soreness. Functional range conditioning, however, not only reduces joint pain but helps to bulletproof you against future injury. Take your shoulders: controlled articular rotations – moving a shoulder blade back, down, forward, then up with your arm outstretched – condition the joint’s optimal range, instead of just stretching
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