Stretching: Expert Explains How Best To Do It Before And After A Workout

Stretching: Expert Explains How Best To Do It Before And After A Workout By Lewis MacgregorUniversity of Stirlingfor Natural Blaze

Many people see stretching as an essential part of any exercise or workout regime. It helps us increase our flexibility and our range of movement. Many of us also stretch to loosen up before exercising, and to help recover after we’re finished.

Though stretching has long been a mainstay of nearly every workout routine, does it have as much of an effect on performance and recovery as we believe?

The reason we feel more flexible after stretching is because of an increase in the level of discomfort we are able to bear at the extremes of our range of movement. This is known as stretch tolerance.

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It was long considered that static stretching – holding a limb at the edge of its range of movement, usually for up to a minute – was a requirement for any decent warm-up. It was thought that pushing this range of movement would temporarily increase flexibility, in theory helping to prevent injuries and improve performance during exercise.

Around the end of the last century, however, evidence emerged that static stretching could actually have negative effects on strength, power and speed. It’s widely been agreed since that static stretching should be avoided during a warm-up.

Dynamic stretching has instead become more popular during warm-ups. Dynamic stretching involves deliberately moving a limb repeatedly through its entire range of movement.

Dynamic stretching doesn’t impede performance the way static stretching does. In fact, it may even increase muscle strength while still providing the short-term increases in flexibility offered by static stretching. Before doing any type of exercise, a bit of dynamic stretching is recommended.

It’s worth noting that static stretching does still increase range of movement. And any negative side effects may even be avoided if done properly. But static stretching a single muscle group for more than 90 seconds substantially increases the likelihood of worsened performance. Any static stretches done before a workout should be brief.

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