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Stretching is only for improving flexibility, right? Ever since elementary school gym class, it's been ingrained in your head that stretching is to help make your muscles longer.

And this is true. Static stretching—the technical term for when you hold a stretch—improves a muscle's ability to lengthen. This is the intention behind the design of stretching exercises, and how they are typically used in a workout.

Side note: Static stretches should be done at the end of a workout, not during your warm-up.

However, according to new research by Dr. Jacob Wilson and his team at the University of Tampa, it appears that static stretching during the rest period of a strength exercise has the capability to cause serious muscle growth. You read that right: Stretching can increase muscle size.

Read more: A Stretching Technique That Increases Muscle Size

"Why do I sweat so much?"

If you walk around the gym with a trail of sweat on the floor behind you, this question probably comes to mind. Sometimes it might feel like you are constantly soaked, even if you're not doing an overly hard workout. Another person in the gym might be doing a similar workout, and he or she is dry as a bone.

What gives?

Several factors contribute to how much you sweat. But first, you need to understand why you sweat in the first place.

Why Do I Sweat?

Sweating at the Gym

Sweating is the body's natural process to cool itself down. Sweat can be caused by an emotional response such as anxiety, an illness or physical exertion, which is what we focus on below.

Read more: Why Do I Sweat So Much?

Kettlebells are wonderful tools that can be found in almost any gym. You can quite literally use only one kettlebell and target every single muscle group with a full-body workout. Below I list my 26 favorite kettlebell exercises and how to do them. Make sure to check out the above video for a visual demonstration.

1. Two-Arm Swing

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, set the bell between your feet and even with your heels.

Hinge at the hip, keeping your back straight, until you can grasp the bell with your hands.

Pop your hips forward and stand straight up until the bell is at sternum height.

Focus on using your glutes.

Repeat the movement explosively using your hips each time and making sure not to overextend backwards.

Why: A strong posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, erectors, etc.) promotes powerful hip extension, the backbone of improving sports performance.

2. One-Arm Swing

Set up the same as for the Two-Arm Swing, but grab the handle with only one hand while holding your other arm straight out to the side.

Swing the bell the same as with the Two-Arm Swing.

Why: Same as the Two-Arm Swing with a slight variation.

Read more: 26 Highly Effective Kettlebell Exercises

If you're looking for a strength training method that not only maximizes power and size but also corrects form and function, it's time to incorporate eccentric isometrics into your training routine. Eccentric isometrics involve lowering a load slowly (3 or 4 seconds), pausing in the bottom position for an additional 2 to 7 seconds, then powerfully driving the weight up.

Having used this method with my athletes and clients, I've found nothing more effective for improving lifting mechanics, muscle function, mobility, stability, strength, hypertrophy and power. Besides the fact that eccentric exercises have been shown to be highly effective for producing strength and muscle mass, there are additional reasons why eccentric isometrics enhance performance.

The Research

Muscles contain numerous sensory receptors known as muscles spindles. These proprioceptive mechanisms respond to stretching and provide internal feedback relating to body positioning and mechanics. The greater the stretch, the more feedback they provide. Because eccentric isometrics emphasize a controlled stretch, they essentially increase sensory feedback, allowing the lifter to fine-tune, modify and perfect his or her technique and body mechanics.

In my research performed at the University of Georgia, we found eccentric isometrics improved measures of both upper- and lower-body stability. This is most likely due to improved motor control and increased motor unit recruitment resulting from the deliberate eccentric motions. Besides improving strength training mechanics, this can have a profound impact on athletic performance, since the athlete will have greater control and awareness of his or her body on the playing field.

We also found eccentric isometrics to be highly effective for improving symmetrical loading (percent of load supported by left vs. right side). In essence, eccentric isometrics help eliminate uneven distribution between the sides of the body. The practical application for any athlete is significant, since eliminating imbalances and improving symmetry are critical for injury prevention.

Finally, eccentric isometrics are incredibly effective at inducing post-activation potentiation (PAP). This is fancy term for an immediate, albeit temporary, increase in power, speed, torque and force production.

Although there are several complex scientific explanations as to why this occurs, much of it comes down to improved neuromuscular efficiency and increased activation of available muscle fibers. The take-home point is that performing eccentric isometrics several minutes prior to an explosive event (jumping, sprinting, throwing or hitting) significantly enhances power, speed, force and movement mechanics. When performed near the beginning of a workout, it allows you to increase the amount of load you can handle on subsequent sets, ultimately producing greater gains in strength and muscle mass.

Tips for Performing Eccentric Isometrics

Rather than letting the weight press you down, focus on using your opposing muscles to pull the load into proper position. For example, during a Chest Press, squeeze your lats and use your upper back to pull the weight down, essentially turning the eccentric movement into a Row.

Don't collapse at the bottom. The goal is optimal and natural range of motion, not excessive range of motion.

Stay tight and keep your spine rigid throughout.

Don't breathe heavily during the actual repetition or you'll lose tightness and collapse. Think about sipping air through a straw, and take deep breaths between reps rather than during.

Go barefoot or minimalist. The feet provide plenty of sensory feedback for movement modification, but bulky shoes or inhibited feet can blunt the response.

Don't use the mirror. Focus on feeling your way through the movement rather than watching your way through. You may even want to try closing your eyes.

Application

READ MORE...

The Goblet Squat is a fantastic exercise for building lower-body strength and teaching perfect Squat form. But unlike the Back Squat and Front Squat, you can perform variations of the Goblet Squat that target your core.

This is only possible because you hold the kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest in the goblet position. You have freedom to move the weight with your arms, which is not feasible when you have a heavy bar across your back or shoulders.

Something as simple as performing a Curl in the squat position completely changes how the weight affects your body. As you lower the weight, it travels further from your center of mass, increasing the amount of torque you have to to resist. Your core works hard to stabilize and prevent your torso from tilting forward midway through the rep, when the weight is furthest from your body.

Read more: The Squat Variation That Torches Your Core

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