Are you taking the time to stretch?

Powerlifting is a fantastic way to tone your body, build muscle and improve your health. However, the results do come with their share of risks. If you don't properly prepare yourself before lifting you could cause serious muscle and joint damage. This goes equally for aftercare, which is just as important as stretching beforehand.

Before you go anywhere near your weights, make sure you properly warm-up. This doesn't simply involve bending and stretching but should include a little bit of cardio. By literally warming up your body, you will increase your blood flow. Improving your circulation reduces post-workout soreness and recovery time. Choose something low impact to protect your joints; most gym machines are perfect, or if you are lucky enough to have access to a pool, definitely go for a swim.

You should also avoid static stretching and instead opt for a yoga-inspired stretch method that keeps muscles moving. By stretching in this way you will increase your range of motion and your freedom of movement. It will also improve your flexibility, which is generally fantastic for your body but will also reduce the likelihood that you hurt yourself while lifting heavy weights. If you're not much of a yogi, you have options for dynamic stretching. Activities such as squats, skipping, high knees, or anything that demands motion, is ideal for stretching your muscles and should get your heart rate up at the same time.

It's not quite time to move to the weights yet, next we need to prepare the specific muscle groups we will be using. Consider the muscle groups you want to work out that day and apply some low resistance exercises that specifically target those muscles. This is another area where squats are useful or any other glute based exercise such as bridges. These isolation exercises will make sure that your body is 100% ready for your work out and will help you avoid damage and fatigue.

After your work out it is just as important to go through a cool down. During weight lifting, your muscles will have tightened, the lactic acid will be flowing and if you don't have a good stretch, they will seize up and cause you a decent amount of pain. This is another area where yogic stretching is a fantastic option. Not only will a short yoga flow free up those tight muscles but it will improve recovery, help to relieve tension headaches, and continue to improve flexibility and your mental state. Powerlifting can be quite intense so it's not a bad idea to try and calm the mind afterwards and really stretch out those all-important core muscles.