This is a guest post by Seth Hymes. I really enjoyed reading his story and I think many of us can relate to his experience with dynamic stretching.
I don’t consider myself an activist, but there’s an issue in the athletic world that really makes my blood boil. And it has nothing to do with getting ripped abs or losing weight.
It has to do with a pretty unsexy topic: stretching.
I’m 33 and athletic. But, two years ago I could barely complete a weight training circuit or run a mile without experiencing extreme pain. Nothing medical or diagnosable - I was just achy all the time and my workouts sucked.
I had spent more than two years at various mainstream gyms like Ballys and LA Fitness under the tutelage of a whole slew of ripped personal trainers who all gave me the same general instructions: to put on muscle you have to lift hard, eat chicken, and down some whey.
Our warm ups were always the same, if we even had them at all. Five minutes on the exercise bike, some light stretching, then into the heavy lifting. I was there to bulk up. I managed to put on some muscle and even raise the eyebrows of a few of my female friends during this time, but my athleticism plummeted. My new muscle was painful to sustain and I lost agility, explosiveness, and quickness in my raquetball and basketball games.
I looked alright, but my performance was just awful. I finally stopped going to these gyms because nobody could ever seem to explain or address the extreme discomfort that came with this kind of training.
Six months later, after pretty much giving up on personal trainers, I met some guys at a small gym in LA. I was reluctant to trust trainers again, but Josh was my new roommate and I figured I’d give it a shot. To my surprise, his approach was completely different than that of any other trainer I’ve worked with. He spent more than an hour asking me very specific questions about my lifestyle, diet, and he also tested my ability to perform certain basic movements.
When we finally started working out, we spent more than half the time warming up, stretching, and drinking water to prepare for the exercises we were about to do. And the stretches were totally different than anything I’ve done before. They were kind of odd moving stretches I had never been shown before. I later learned what I’ve been missing from my routine – dynamic stretching.
Our workouts were deceptively simple, consisting of rigorous athletic movements. We never did any circuit weights - all weight movements were functional. That is, we didn’t isolate any muscle group; instead, for instance, you’d do a push up with a weight and lift it up so that you engaged the entire body - the movements were much more natural.
I never believed these simple dynamic stretching exercises would make a difference, but within 2 months I had put on 20 pounds of muscle and had regained my dexterity. And all of the pain and aches that I had experienced working with trainers at the the other gyms were completely gone.
It seemed like magic, so I asked my new trainers how this could be. They explained to me that getting a personal training certification isn’t much more extensive than getting a driver’s license. Most trainers don’t care to further their knowledge and thus most of them don’t know much about dynamic stretching.
About two weeks after I started incorporating dynamic stretching into my routine, my aches and pains started to diminish and I began to function 10 times better.
An effective warm up is a lot more important than people realize. It’s purpose is not only to better prepare you for your workout, but it’s there to prevent injuries and make sure your body functions properly as you get older. I was surprised to learn that within professional athletic circles, old school stretching has been completely thrown out the window. Pro and Division I Athletes all warm up with dynamic stretching routines. I asked my trainers why, and they said in the past decade, numerous studies have shown that static stretching actually weakens the muscle before working out and can promote injury.
Dynamic stretches activate the muscles and preps them for a workout. It also increases explosiveness and muscle performance. I remember working out at the other gyms. After a few months of pain and reduced performance, I decided I should stretch more so I did all the old school stretches: touching my toes, the butterfly stretch, etc. right before my workout. And my workouts kept getting worse and worse. After learning about dynamic stretching I now understand why that happened.
I think it’s unfortunate that personal trainers can be certified without being educated about this important form of stretching. As a Massage Therapist, I’ve met hundreds of people who have pulled their groins or thrown out their backs because their personal trainer had them do rigorous, unhealthy movements without a proper warm up.
The word on dynamic stretching has been slow to reach the mainstream. But if you want to get an edge and make sure your body performs better and lasts longer, you should definitely check out this amazing new program. Learn how to incorporate dynamic stretching exercises into your routine with The Complete Dynamic Warm Up.
Seth Hymes is a Licensed Massage Therapist in New York State, Hawaii and California. He currently practices in Los Angeles. He also runs Dynamic Stretching Zone with his trainers dedicated to holistic fitness.