Should I Stretch Before Exercise?

The answer is no….and yes!

Current research indicates that here is no benefit from doing STATIC stretches before exercise – the type of stretch where you hold a muscle at it’s full extent for at least 10 seconds and usually 30 seconds. Static stretching before exercise can weaken performance, such as sprint speed, in studies. The most likely reason is that holding the stretch tires out your muscles.

There is benefit however from DYNAMIC stretches where you move muscles and joints through their entire range of motion. You will see footballers and athletes do this before competing. This increases blood flow in the muscle and joint. A good warm-up could be a brisk walk, walking lunges, leg swings, high steps, or “butt kicks” (slowly jogging forward while kicking toward your rear end). Start slowly, and gradually ramp up the intensity over at least 5 minutes.

The best time to stretch.

Once you are warmed up and have commenced your exercise the muscles have plenty of blood flow, and are ready for stretching. If you feel some tightness during your walk or work out you could stop and do some static stretching, or wait until you are almost finished when you can incorporate stretching into your warm down.

How to stretch.

Stretch a specific muscle until you feel tension and then hold the position for 15 to 60 seconds. This is considered the safest way to stretch done gently, it allows muscles and connective tissue time to “reset” the stretch reflex. You should feel a pulling or slight discomfort but if stretching is painful, you’re going too far. Instead, move into a stretch, and stop when you feel tension. Breathe deeply while you hold the stretch. Then relax, and repeat the stretch, trying to move a little bit further into it during the second stretch.(