I told myself that I had one more chin-up in me. I was doing reps with a 25 lb weight around my waist, and I had to finish this last set. My sore muscles said,”no,” but my mind said “yes!”
I went for it, and felt a sensation in one of my muscles similar to when you pull apart a sliced cheesy sandwich and the cheese stretches between the slices. I made another attempt only to experience terrible pain. #FAIL.
Why did I pull the muscle? Well, because I did not listen to what my body was saying through the extreme soreness, and I was not consistent with stretching.
Stretching is one of those things that we guys especially ignore. We just want to get on with the heavy grunt work…the cool stuff. We think we do not need stretching, or that stretching is for wimps or something.
You better throw away that pride before you really hurt yourself, though…like I did. If you want to continue to lift weights regularly, and healthily, YOU NEED TO STRETCH!
Think about it. When you engage in strength training of any kind, you are constantly contracting your muscles. Contractions squeeze and shorten the muscle. If you do that for a while, your muscle starts to get used to being a bit shorter. Therefore, you have to stretch it back out.
Regular stretching ensures that the muscles retain their full range of motion. It also helps you to potentially reduce soreness and decrease recovery time.
Going back to my case, I pulled a muscle called the Teres Major, referred to sometimes as the “little lat.” I do a LOT of chin-ups…most days of the week, and this particular muscle had begun to become increasingly sore. I thought that I might be able to work through it, and unfortunately I had been skimping on my stretching because I thought that I lacked the time for it. Yet another #FAIL.
It took me at least two months for rehabilitation of that 3-4 inch long muscle. Recovery involved a couple of massage therapy visits, low weight/high reps on an assisted chin-up machine, and LOTS of stretching. Specifically, the stretches I used were:
- Hanging Arm Stretch – Hold on to a pull-up bar with a forward grip, and slowly allow your self to hang down, controlling your descent with your legs on the ground. Descend until you feel a comfortable stretch along the sides of your shoulders and your back. This is an excellent stretch for the Teres Major and the Lats.
- “Pat on the Back” – Lift both arms above your head. Then, grab the elbow of your right arm with your left hand, pull it to your left side, and bring that right hand down until you begin to touch your upper back. Your hand should touch between your shoulder blades. This is also a great stretch for the Lats and other minor muscles.
Another thing to note is, before you work out, focus on warming up versus stretching, and save the stretching for after you work out. Stretching before a workout can supposedly impair the ability of your muscles to contract.
Oh, yet another bit of food for thought is, stretching might even help you with your blood pressure! Yep, I read at some point that stretching might help tense muscles around the blood vessels to relax, reducing the pressure on them and therefore reducing your blood pressure. This might be in a future article :).
The sad thing is that shortly after I recovered from pulling the Teres Major on one side, I pulled it on the other side as well. I was too “eager beaver” to get back into things, and neglected yet again to listen to my body and pace myself.
Don’t be too cool to stretch, please! It is not worth it, unless you desire to rip a muscle like I did.