The Truth About Stretching Exercises

stretching exercises

Let’s bust some stretching myths that are touted around for workouts.

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:

Is Stretching Even Necessary?

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.

stretching exercises

Great back workout if you suffer from an office job that gives you bad posture all day long.

Simple Back Stretch

Mike Bracko, an exercise physiologist recommends the ‘standing cat-camel’, a work related back stretch, this is how you do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Place your hands just above your knees leaning forwards.
  • Round out your back so that your shoulders are curved forwards and your chest is closed.
  • Now arch your back so that your shoulders roll back and your chest opens.
  • Repeat this several times.

If your job involves sitting at a desk all day then Bracko recommends doing 2 minute stretch breaks once an hour.

stretching exercises.

Doing stretches for your back and other places can keep you flexible as you get older.

Do You Need To Hold The Stretch To See A Benefit?

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:

  • Lace your fingers together and turn your palms to face forwards in front of you.
  • Reach your arms forwards as far as you can whilst curving your shoulders and back forwards.
  • Hold this for 10 seconds.
  • Release your fingers and grab your wrists or fingers behind your back.
  • Raise your hands as high as you can behind your back without releasing your hands so that your chest opens and your shoulders then roll back.

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.

stretching exercises

Stretching exercises are not always necessary, despite what you may have heard.

Should Stretching Be Done Before Exercising?

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.

Should You Stretch After An Exercise?

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.

Can Stretching Be Done Any Time?

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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