I got a request from a friend to write an article on when to stretch: before, during, or after a workout. After a bit of thinking, I realized that despite the fact that most people that workout seem to stretch beforehand, I actually wasn’t sure that this was the right time for stretching.
Although recommendations to stretch at different times change very often, stretching is a necessary part of a fitness program.
It would appear that a misinterpretation of research on warming up has led to the belief that stretching prior to exercising is beneficial. The studies actually found that warming up had no effect on the range of motion, but when combined with stretching, people had an increased range of motion. Therefore, if you are currently stretching to prevent injury, you should instead increase the warm up time and limit stretching. In fact, traditional static stretching actually does not work as well as stretches that incorporate movement.
Recently, experts have been saying that for a better workout, you shouldn’t stretch beforehand as it is potentially harmful. It would appear that stretches may actually cause the muscles to tighten, therefore making the stretches counter-productive.
Kieran O’Sullivan of the University of Limerick (Ireland) has studied the impact of stretching on athletes and states that while stretching helps with flexibility, people should only do it when they are not about to exercise. Instead, you should stretch after a workout or at the end of the day. Unfortunately this news has yet to be adopted by those set in their ways, such as runners and athletes.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has analyzed papers written on stretching studies and found that those who stretched before exercising were not at a lower risk of suffering injuries.
Many experts are recommending that you should warm up with a light jog or other specific exercise that will increase the heart rate and blood flow to the specific muscles. According to to Dr. Anders to Dr. Anders Cohen, Chief of Neurosurgery & Spine Surgery at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, states that this “allows you to approach your full range of motion, but in a very controlled way.”
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