Let's face it, stretching before a workout is necessary and annoying.
It eats up precious minutes that could otherwise be occupied doing an activity that burns calories.
It's not particularly comfortable. But it is absolutely critical for injury prevention, especially for older people.
Back in the early 2000s, I played some semi-professional sand volleyball and even won a little tour in Arkansas called the Mid-South Beach Volleyball Tour. I was in my 20s, and although many of the other players were also young, a handful of veteran players also participated. I remember warming up before tournament games, and warmup routines varied drastically, but there was a common thread among players of a certain age.
The older guys stretched significantly longer than those of us in our 20s. They would shuffle around in the sand with a little jogging, perform a few squats to get blood flow in their legs and basically spend the rest of their warmup time stretching.
Of course, I spent my pre-match time jumping, sprinting, spiking and running around the court like a headless chicken.
Now that I have had a bit more experience, I understand exactly why our warmup routines were so different. The first reason is that flexibility becomes more of a challenge as one ages. Muscles are tighter, they take longer to become pliable, and they require more work to stretch effectively. But the second reason is the big one: Inflexible muscles plus intense activity are a recipe for injury.
My veteran counterparts knew this, having lived it. No matter how many textbooks I'd read up to that point, I needed the life experience to persuade me to finally start doing a strong pre-game or pre-workout stretching routine.
The thing is, a pre-workout stretch session doesn't have to be complicated or exhaustive. It takes a few key static stretches held for 20 seconds each mixed in with some dynamic stretching. The big muscles are the most important (quads, gluteals, chest, upper back), along with any areas that take longer to loosen up (lower back, inner thigh).
This week's exercise is a fantastic pre-workout stretch designed to cover several muscle groups in one big movement. The Sumo Squat Stretch is perfect for any fitness level, and it feels great before or after a workout.
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1. Stand with your feet well beyond shoulder width apart — almost as far as you can separate your feet.
2. Squat down solely by bending the knees and the hips (keeping the upper body upright).
3. As your chest begins to lower, place your elbows on your inner thighs and press against them.
4. Once your thighs are parallel with the floor, pause for two or three seconds.
5. Release the elbows from your inner thighs and slowly stand back up.
6. Continue squatting for two sets of 12 repetitions.
Although I now appreciate the value of a good pre-workout stretch, I still find myself anxious with anticipatory energy. This feeling always makes me want to hurry through the stretching portion, but this movement helps me slow down and really sink into a good, effective stretch for the legs, lower back and hips.
I think most people will feel the same. So, let's get started!
Matt Parrott is glad to hear from readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic workouts at