Do I Really Need To Stretch?
What used to be a question that was so obvious that people would have laughed at you for asking it has now become a more complicated topic and requires some further discussion to decide if stretching before a workout or physical activity is helpful and whether or not it could possibly even be detrimental.
It’s probably best to start by separating this question out by what type of workout you’re preparing for… there are three main activities that come to mind: sports, running or weight lifting. Let’s take a look at each of these individually and see what if anything has changed in the current trends for each.
Stretching For Sports
In most sports, as soon as the bell, whistle or starting gun sounds off your body is going immediately into a very tense state, so you want to make sure that muscles are properly warmed up and stretched out. We’ve all seen the running back on the football field or the outfielder in the baseball park start to take off and then hop and hit the ground and grab their hamstring.
The recommend pre-sports routine involves a warm-up period of jumping jacks, light jogging, hopping in place and then moving into more substantial workout exercises like squats and pushups to really get the muscles ready. From here some light stretching where you bounce rather than hold a stretch is the way to go.
This should get your muscles responsive, warmed-up and ready to perform! So whether, you’re warming up for a game of football, soccer, or even volleyball or softball, it’s best to play it smart and take the time to get properly warmed-up and prepared for your game.
Pay attention at your next professional sporting event at how much time you see the players stretching out before the game and even staying warmed up while they’re on the sidelines. If it works for them, it’s gonna work best for you too!
Stretching For Running
Not sure about all of you, but way back when I was in middle school and joined the track and field team, the common ritual of stretching before our training included a lot of non-static stretches, for example: grabbing your toes and counting to ten and keeping constant pressure on those extended hamstrings and lower back muscles.
There have been a handful of recent studies that have shown this type of non-static stretching is great for post workouts but can actually cause injury if performed before running and other strenuous activities.
Part of this issue is that the muscles may be stretched too far before becoming malleable by properly warming them up before getting into some deep stretches. Today, it is recommended that you start off with dynamic, full-body stretches to get things rolling – these include a light job, slow time on a stationary bike, jumping jacks, windmilling your arms, twisting your torso slowly from side to side, etc.
Stretching For Weight Lifting
Most gym-goers don’t realize just how important flexibility is to increasing strength as well as size and definition. You’d be surprised to see the range of flexibility that professional weightlifters are capable of and this is because they realize just how important it is to their overall health, performance and of course ‘building their bodies’.
There have been a number of studies that have come out stating that most types of deep stretching performed before intense weightlifting can do more harm than good. Currently, the recommendation is to perform some dynamic stretching to warm the muscles without putting them under too much strain.
It’s also recommended for your first set of each exercise to be about fifty percent of your target weight and to perform 12-15 repetitions slowly so that your muscles can get warmed-up and prepared for the more intense sets to follow. Most of the intense stretching that will help increase flexibility should be performed after weightlifting as well as on your rest days.