I’m sure you’ve heard all the usual lines about stretching exercises:
‘If you don’t stretch before a workout you will hurt yourself’.
‘Don’t bounce whilst doing the stretch or you will hurt yourself.’
‘You must hold the stretch for any benefit.’
All these statements are incorrect, let’s look at the bigger picture however:
The American college of medicine recommends stretching each major muscle group twice a week at 1 minute per exercise.
Keeping flexible as you get older will keep you moving properly.
A good example of this is regular stretching which will help keep your hamstrings and hips flexible later on in life.
If posture or activities are a problem then you should make an effort to stretch those muscles regularly, back pain from bad posture sitting at a desk all day can be reversed with the correct reverse stretches.
Mike Bracko, an exercise physiologist recommends the ‘standing cat-camel’, a work related back stretch, this is how you do it:
If your job involves sitting at a desk all day then Bracko recommends doing 2 minute stretch breaks once an hour.
Not always, stretching the muscle to it’s maximum and then holding it for 15 to 30 seconds is what is known as a static stretch, there is nothing wrong with doing this so long as you don’t do it until it hurts.
Many studies suggest that a dynamic stretch is better and may actually make your workout better as a result if done before the workout.
The standing cat-camel for instance is a dynamic stretch that moves a muscle group fluidly through a range of motion.
This is the static version of the Cat-Camel:
Any dynamic or static stretch should get you to feel it, but you shouldn’t be feeling any pain, there is no need to overstretch yourself.
Not always, it is not proven to help prevent injury, stop muscle soreness after a workout or even improve your performance.
Static stretches before a workout can actually negatively effect performance such as sprint speed, the reason is most likely to be that holding the stretch tires the muscles.
Warm-up should be done with dynamic stretches, these are like a lower intensity version of a workout. A good warm up before a run could be a brisk walk, leg swings, high steps, walking lunges or butt kicks (slowly jogging whilst kicking toward your butt).
Start out slow and slowly build the intensity.
This is probably the best time to do it, everyone is much more flexible after working out as you have better blood circulation to your muscles and joints.
Static stretches will see the most benefit here, if you’ve been doing running or weight training it is always good to end it with a little walk around and then some stretching.
Of course, it is not written in stone that you must stretch before or after a workout but as long as you do it sometime then this is fine, this can be anytime during the day, on your break at work, when you get home or before work.
You should see good results if you do stretching exercises regularly, do not think that they all have to be done in a workout though.
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