Stretching for CrossFit and Special Forces Athletes
by Brad McLeod
As part of your daily workout, stretching should be a top priority for CrossFit and Special Forces athletes. The word “stretching” has received bad press in recent years so lets clarify and call it “mobility workout” to be more politically correct.
Check out these mobility workout tips to help you win the war against injury and burnout.
Stretching should be a part of every athletes fitness program. Stretching increases flexibility which will help you perform life’s daily activities with more ease. This will also help reduce the risk of joint, tendon and muscle injuries. A full body stretch is a great way to warm up before and cool down after your CrossFit style workouts. Here are 11 stretching tips to help you in your journey.
1. Always start slow. Never stretch cold muscles as this can cause injury. Numerous studies have shown that stretching cold muscles slightly decreases muscle strength and power for up to an hour after stretching. Warm up first by walking or a light jog. Move on to the air dyne bike or C2 Rower and then stretch. You may want to do a few bodyweight exercises after that and then stretch again. Its ok to break a sweat.
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2. Be consistent with your mobility workout routine. Stretching for a few minutes each day will gradually build flexibility and range of motion. This is much better than stretching only once or twice a week for a longer period of time.
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3. Look at the workout of the day on the whiteboard (or from your phone or drill instructor) and adjust your stretching for that day. If a workout calls for heavy squats, then add in extra stretches and make sure your hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back are adequately stretched. Same if you are slated to do muscle ups (with rings) in your workout. Put an emphasis on stretching out your wrist, forearms and shoulders first and then on to the rest of the body.
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4. Depending on the stresses of your prior workout you may be incredibly sore (hamstrings?) and your flexibility is impaired for the day. This means your stretching routine may change to suite those needs. If your hamstrings are sore – work more on that area to loosen up those muscles. Standing lunges, groiners and toe touches are great stretches to loosen these areas.
5. Never force a stretch beyond the point of light tension. Stretching is not an activity that is meant to damage your muscle. Stretching should be relaxing and effective to help you begin your workout. Some athletes believe that to get the most from their stretching they need to stretch until it hurts. This is not the case and you should avoid all painful stretching.
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6. Do not move quickly when you stretch. Do not bounce. You should move slowly and gently. Do not bounce. Stretching slowly helps to relax your muscles which allows you to stretch more. Moving quickly can cause muscle tears and strains that will sideline you from your workouts.
7. Do not stretch an injured muscle. Allow proper time for it to heal. Consult a physician if needed and wait the proper amount of time before resuming to stretch.
8. Breathe slowly and easily while stretching. Occassionally athletes will unconsciously hold their breath while stretching. Holding your breath can cause tension in your muscles, which will make it very difficult to stretch. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply during your stretching. Breathing will help to promotes blood flow, relax your muscles, and increases the delivery of oxygen and valuable nutrients back to your muscles.
9. Drink plenty of fluids after your post stretching workout. Stretching after a workout induces blood flow which in turn releases lactic acid and waste products into the blood stream. Drinking plenty of water will help to flush out the kidneys and allow them to more efficiently clean your system.
10. Learn new stretching techniques and apply them to your daily regimine. Doing the same stretching workout every day can be boring so mix it up and research and find new stretches to challenge your body adn mind. Check out YouTube videos by yoga masters, martial artist, MMA fighters, other Special Forces trainers and other CrossFit gyms.
A few resources are:
CrossFit Hip Mobility website by Kelly Starrett
Mountain Athlete website by Rob Shaul
Questions from athletes in our gym.
Question: What is the best book on stretching for CrossFit? Check out Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance.
Question: Will active stretching help if I am sore after workouts? Mobility workouts and active stretching will help. A recent article by Tony Webster explains that you need the pain, swelling, and shakiness of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) because it indicates that your muscles are adapting to your last workout by getting stronger.
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