April 14, 2013

Still Stretching?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not in favor of stretching before a workout.  New research underscores how pre-exercise stretching can decrease vertical jump height, sprint speed and amount of weight lifted.  This is probably because a stretched muscle is a lengthened, and thereby weaker muscle. 
Many fear that lack of stretching will lead to injury or a pulled muscle, but most people “pull their muscles” due to weakness, not tightness.  There is actually no evidence that stretching (before or after a workout) decreases injury.  You still need to warm-up.  Your body responds best by gradually easing into your sport or workout.  A dynamic warm-up is recommended.  This means mimicking the activities you will be doing, but going easier.  For example, walk before running, use light or no weights but go through the movements before lifting weights. Move your body through its full range of motion.  You should feel warm before engaging in any intense activity.
This does not mean stretching is bad; these studies are specific to stretching before a workout or sports performance.   Those with injuries or muscle imbalance may need to stretch a specific area before working out.  However, the consensus is to save your stretching for after the workout.  You will get better results, and save yourself some time.

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