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One type of stretching that is becoming more and more popular is something called ‘loaded stretching‘. Loaded stretching is a form of static stretching, involving the use of weights, or a load, to increase the amount of stretch you can achieve while also increasing tension in the muscles being stretched. Loaded stretching can be an effective way to stretch and improve your available range of motion. It takes you past your body’s available limits with the use of the extra load, giving you a more effective stretch. The added load also creates increased tension in the muscle fibers that are being stretched which creates the added benefit of strengthening those muscle fibers at that particular length.
Loaded stretching is most beneficial when it is performed between 2-3 minutes. This allows for the muscle to maximize its ability to lengthen while also maximizing its time under loaded tension, necessary for building strength. To achieve this, perform each repetition of a loaded stretch exercise for 4-5 seconds for 3 sets of 10.
As with all forms of stretching, loaded stretching should only be implemented within your workout routine to meet your specific goals. Loaded stretching can be used following a work out to help improve muscle flexibility as well as hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Performing loaded stretching prior to any high-intensity activity can potentially be dangerous and it should not replace your normal dynamic stretches or warm-up routine.
If you are like the many people out there who suffer from tightness in your back and/or hamstrings, then this exercise may be right for you!
Most often than not, tightness within a muscle is usually associated with weakness. That is where loaded stretching can come in handy. One example of a loaded stretch exercise that will target the muscles in the back and hamstrings is the Jefferson Curl.
To perform a Jefferson Curl, start by standing straight up while holding a lightweight in front of your body. Begin the movement by tucking your chin into your chest and slowly continue to round your back one vertebra at a time. As you curl, feel the weight pull your body lower towards the floor. Next, focus on pulling your belly button back towards your spine as you continue to sink down as low as you can while keeping your legs straight. Reverse the motion starting with your lower back, and keep your chin tucked the entire time until you return to the starting position. As you get better at this exercise and improve your flexibility, you can perform it at the edge of a step or elevated platform to further your progress.
Each repetition should take 4-5 seconds to complete. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 10 repetitions to improve the flexibility and strength of your back and hamstring muscles!
Always be sure to consult with a physical therapist if you have any questions on loaded stretching or if you believe loaded stretching can benefit you.