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I’ve been receiving many eyebrow raising responses to my ‘You should not stretch before your workout’ during my sessions with clients – especially during the corporate classes that I conduct.

Yes, you heard it right – do not stretch prior to your workout. The old school practice of ‘I must stretch before my exercise session’ is WRONG. Back then, we were taught that stretching before a workout would improve performance, prepare your body for exercise and reduce risks of injuries.

A lot of research and studies have shown that stretching before a workout actually do the opposite – (1) reduces performance and (2) does not reduce the risks of injuries. For example, the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise states that stretching impairs balance and worsens reaction and movement times.  David G. Behm, PhD, from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada says “A number of studies report that acute and prolonged stretching may actually reduce human performance through decreases in force and power”

Stretching prior to a workout may also result in these:

  • It hides muscle pains therefore making it hard to spot them.
  • It does not benefit or help muscle strains that occurs during eccentric movements
  • Soft tissue injury is more likely to occur due to immobilization
  • It causes damage to the cytoskeleton level which is the dynamic structure that maintains cell shape, protect cells, enables cellular motion as well plays an important role in both intra cellular transport as well as cellular division
  • Exercises such as jogging that extend muscle lengths see no actual benefit of stretching.

Why is it so?

A few possibilities and theories (Warning: Geek alert) –

1) Tendons that are stretched increase their slackness. Due to this slack, to move the joint properly, the contracting muscle have to first tighten up the slack of the stretched tendon – thus making the movement less efficient.
2)  Some theorised that the issue is in the small muscle cell that houses the contractile elements – in the sarcomere. Just like the pre-stretched tendons, separation of the of the contractile elements-actin and myosin (which are are first pulled farther apart as a result of stretching of the fibers) must be first negated before cross bridging occurs.
3) Stretching may also relax the muscles and worsen their firing patterns.

For a more in depth learning of how stretching may impede performance, you may want to check out Dr Jon Anning’s paper on Influence of Pre-Exercise Stretching on Force Production.

How should you warm up?

I’d suggest that you do dynamic warm ups (DWU) that would help you to prepare your muscles to work. As for me, I usually take my personal training clients through different types of dynamic warm up routines – such as those by Todd Durkin’s Train Like The Pros Dynamic Warm Up (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S1q6abG4AI) or that of Velocity Sports (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyX4olA6VL4).

Here’s an example of what you can be doing before your workout:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S1q6abG4AI[/youtube]

Just a gentle reminder though – if you’re training without a trainer, remember to modify your DWU according to your ability and health restrictions, if there’s any.

When should you stretch?

After your workout is done, do a quick warm down. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds (ACSM, 2006). This would help improve flexibility and range of motion. See Dr Kravit’s FAQ on stretching here

There’s many more to share on this topic, but let’s digest the above for today. As I always tell my clients – reading and learning is good, but doing and moving is better. If you’d like to workout in a group, you may want to check the Multi Level Fitness Bootcamp Outdoor classes that my Chief Trainers are conducting at http://fitnessbootcamp.sg. For one on one personal training instructions, we’re here.

For now, click on that Play button above and let’s start doing some dynamic warmups! 🙂

Stretching my time as much as I can to share with you,

Sharm,MSC*
Your personal trainer
Team Fitness Guru

 

 

 

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