So, I shouldn't stretch before a workout?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

We all know we're supposed to stretch before a run, or gym session. Right? Wrong. Not all of us should. And it depends what you mean by “stretch”. Let's have a look at when and what stretching should really be included in a workout.

Static vs dynamic stretching

There are two main types of stretching, static and dynamic. Static stretching is the “lean and hold for a minute” type. Dynamic stretching is moving the muscle from one end of range to the other end of range, e.g. swinging legs.

Static stretching for range of motion

Static stretching has been found effective for increasing range of motion in a particular joint. For activities that require a larger range of motion, like dancing and gymnastics, static stretching is necessary. The key point is to avoid overstretching, i.e. don't hold a stretch for longer than 45 seconds, and don't push further than you need to.

Static stretching before exercise

But, if you are about to embark on a strength/power sport, like running, basketball, etc., where you need explosive movements, static stretching has been found to significantly reduce performance up to 30 minutes after stretching. Indeed, adding static stretching before exercise like this will counter the benefits from an aerobic (run, jump) warm-up. Instead, use dynamic stretching and light aerobic exercise. For some ideas on how to swap your usual static stretches for dynamic stretches, watch our video.

It's clear that we each need to tailor our warm-up for the exercise or sport we're are about to do. Remember that we are preparing our bodies for how it's about to work. Let's do predominantly dynamic stretching before exercise. Static stretching can be done between workout sessions. For tailored expert advice, exercise physiologist are available to answer your questions.

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