5 Stretches That Can Make Strength Training Even More Effective

If you're regularly active, stretches are likely part of your workout routine. If you've skipped these drills, there's no time like the present to start.

Stretching can have a positive impact on your strength training workouts. (Image: Bojan89/iStock/GettyImages)

Stretching might seem like it's just for runners, dancers or yogis, but it has many benefits for anyone, such as helping to increase circulation, lengthen muscles to aid in recovery and decrease and relieve post-exercise muscle stiffness — even help with posture, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Plus, it just might help boost your muscle growth and strength capacity if you stretch in between strength training sets, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Dynamic Stretching and Strength Training

Incorporating different types of stretches before, between and after exercises can help increase your range of motion, help your lifting and lead to better muscle growth, says Jeff Brannigan, stretch therapy specialist and director of programming at Stretch*d.

It's not your standard static stretches, though. "You're not holding the position very long," Brannigan says. "Instead, you move in and out of the stretch in a slow and controlled repetition that's a very natural, effective progression." He recommends active, dynamic stretches with shorter reps of two to three seconds, repeated six to 10 times.

He also suggests moving through these stretches if you're alternating between cardio and weights. "Often times, in an ideal world, people are doing stretches before and after working out, but it's certainly not counterproductive to do them throughout the workout as well."

These slow, dynamic stretches can increase range of motion and flexibility when it comes to strength training exercises, he says. "Generally speaking, if you do four to six weeks of consistent stretching, you'll see a change in your flexibility and mobiility," says Brannigan. This also improves your range of motion for everyday activities, such as walking up stairs, says the American College of Sports Medicine.

One thing to be mindful of when stretching between weight training exercises is your current level of injury or likelihood of potential injury. If you're not properly stretching an injured muscle or pushing too hard, it could hinder recovery and gains. If you feel like something is off, consult with a sports medicine specialist on what stretching is necessary for proper recovery, says Sherry Ward, certified personal trainer. You don't want to over stretch a muscle — or worse — stretch the wrong ones.

Best Stretches for Strength Training Workouts

But before you go all Gumby during your workouts, start with these best mid-workout stretches (expert-approved!) to see better muscle gains when doing some of the most popular strength training movements.

Hamstring Stretch for Deadlifts

  1. Lie down with your back on the ground.
  2. Place the foot of the leg you're exercising into the loop of a rope/strap and lift your leg until your thigh is perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Gradually stretch your leg by contracting your quadriceps. (Note: You may have to lower the angle of your leg from the hip at first if you are not able to reach full extension.)
  4. Use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch.
  5. Hold for two to three seconds, then release. Repeat five to 10 times.

Rhomboids and Trapezius Stretch for Shoulder Press or Bent-Over Rows

Rhomboids

  1. Start sitting down.
  2. Hold one arm out straight in front of you with the palm upward.
  3. Use the other hand to give a gentle assist at the elbow bringing the arm across the chest toward the opposite shoulder. (Note: Keep your torso still and your shoulders low.)
  4. Hold for two to three seconds, then release. Repeat five to 10 times.

Trapezius

  1. Start sitting down.
  2. Lift one arm, with the elbow bent, and the hand on the opposite shoulder blade.
  3. Use the other hand to give a gentle assist at the elbow until your hand reaches down your back. (Note: Keep your torso still and your shoulders low.)
  4. Hold for two to three seconds, then release. Repeat five to 10 times.

Quadriceps Stretch for Squats

  1. Lie on your side.
  2. Place the foot of your top leg inside the loop of your strap and grasp the other end of the strap with the top hand.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles to keep from rolling and keep the bottom leg parallel to the ground.
  4. Contract your hamstrings and gluteus maximus and move that upper leg back as far as you can. (Note: You may use your hand to give a gentle assist at the end of the stretch.)
  5. Hold for two to three seconds, then release. Repeat five to 10 times.

Quadratus Lumborum and Latissmus Dorsi Stretch for Snatches

  1. Sit with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Lock your hands behind your head with your elbows out.
  2. Rotate your upper body in one direction until you have twisted as far as you can go.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Rotate, hold for two to three seconds, then lean toward the ground with your elbow.
  5. Hold for two to three seconds, then release. Repeat five to 10 times.
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