Stretching for Better Lifts

There are some things things that we just can't out lift. You can't out lift poor range of motion. You can't out lift bad form. You definitely can't out lift lack of mobility. A common denominator that can cause these three factors are the little moment of time we have put towards recovery and stretching.

Stretching is one of the most important aspects of performing better in the gym. Putting constant resistance on your tendons and ligaments can restrict range of motion, hinder your compound movements, like squatting, and even cause serious injury. So here are some great stretches that you can do in order to help you get the most out of your lifting session.

Cow-Face Pose

Reach right arm straight up, then bend elbow and let hand fall behind your head. Move left arm behind the back and bend the arm, letting the back of your left hand rest against the right shoulder blade (or as close to the blade as possible). Reach to grab right fingertips with the left hand. Repeat on the other side.

Cross-Body Arm Stretch

Cross a straight right arm across your chest, and use left hand to gently pull right upper arm closer to your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, relax, and repeat on the other side.

Standing Wall Stretch

Place both hands on a wall so they form a 90-degree angle to your body. Walk feet back until arms are straight and bow, hinging forward at the hips. (Do not push on the wall, and do not allow your arms to raise up too high, in order to avoid a shoulder impingement.) Keep shoulder blades set back and avoid scrunching shoulders around the neck.

Arm Circles

Standing perpendicular to a wall, make big, slow circles with your arm. Get as close to the wall as you can (coming into contact with it if possible). Repeat 10 times in each direction before turning the other way to rotate the opposite arm. Maintain good posture throughout, especially when moving forward: Do not slouch or round the back forward.

Ankle Stretches – Basic Exercises

Foot and Ankle Up and Down

Move your foot and ankle up and down as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 1). Repeat 10 – 20 times provided the exercise is pain free.

Foot and Ankle In and Out

Move your foot and ankle in and out as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 2). Repeat 10 – 20 times provided the exercise is pain free.

Ankle Stretches – Intermediate Exercises

Alphabet Writing A-Z

Use your foot and ankle movements to draw the alphabet from A – Z . Use movements as large as possible without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 4). Repeat with lower case letters.

Dorsiflexion Stretch with Towel

Begin this exercise in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated (figure 5). Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free.

Wall Calf Stretch

This is a classic calf stretch that you can do just about anywhere.

  • Stand a little less than arm's distance from the wall.
  • Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel.
  • Bend your left knee and press through your right heel.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.

Downward Facing Dog

This basic yoga pose is a great calf stretch.

  • Begin in a plank pose with your hands under your shoulders then lift your pelvis up making a "V" with your body. Spread your fingers wide.
  • Work on bringing your heels toward the ground.
  • Allow your heels to flare out slightly wider than your toes
  • Reach your sits bones, on the bottom of your pelvis, high to the ceiling to increase the stretch.
  • To deepen the stretch in your calves, try treading lightly by pressing down on one foot while bending your other leg (as shown). Hold a few seconds per leg and then switch.
  • Hold or alternate your feet for a total of 30 seconds.

Calf and Shoulder Stretch at the Wall

This stretch is a great multitasking stretch that opens the shoulders as well as the calves.

  • Stand in front of a wall with your feet together. Place your hands on the wall shoulder-width apart.
  • Rock your weight back on your heels without locking your knees, so your toes get pulled off the ground. Reach your bum out as far as you can by lengthening through your spine. Tuck your chin to feel a deep stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Stay here for thirty seconds and then shift your weight forward, placing your toes back on the ground.