Do I Need to Stretch Before Working Out?
We get it, it’s tough to stretch before working out. You want to get in and get your sweat on. Who wants to wait 5-10 minutes, or more stretching their muscles rather than using them?
It’s like flossing—nobody wants to do it, but it needs to be done.
Consider every sport you ever played as a child. Stretching was an integral part of your pre-practice regimen. But suddenly, we hit adulthood and we throw the finger to rules.
Or did we throw the finger to common sense?
Hint—it’s not rules.
So, maybe if we talk about why we should stretch—we will.
Right? Let’s get to it.
The Types of Stretching
First, it’s important to note that we stretch to improve our Range of Motion (ROM) with our muscles to prevent injury.
Tight muscles can be the perfect setting for a pulled hamstring during training or athletics.
But, what type of stretching is best to prevent it?
Yes…there is more than one type of stretching, indeed.
Ballistic stretching was used with soldiers during the world wars. Ballistic stretching uses explosive movements like jumping to get the muscles geared up for battle. They later were incorporated in athletics.
However, like most things, a news report came out, or someone told someone that this type of exercise requires muscles to contract while they are elongated which could cause injury.
Heaven forbid we do some jumping jacks…
So, static stretching became the new thing.
Static stretching examples include when you stand and touch your toes or stretch your tris behind your back.
But….just like the once loved broccoli, static stretching is now bad. Research argues now that this form of stretching can impede performance.
Well, at least it doesn’t cause cancer, right broccoli? Sheesh.
Either way, stretching doesn’t just prevent injury, it helps with muscle soreness.
Stretching Helps with Muscle Soreness
Studies show that not only does stretching improve ROM and prevent injuries, it can also reduce muscle soreness after training.
This is because the ROM your joints have is dependent on your muscles’ active and passive tension.
Passive muscle tension is dependent on the properties of the muscle and surrounding fascia, and active tension is a result of dynamic muscle contraction.
If you have less ROM, you’ll feel the pressure or pain in your joints and muscle when you’re exercising. That restriction can also lead to injury.
What’s cool about stretching is that you are LITERALLY stretching the length of your muscles. Think about it like a pair of leather shoes. At first they are tight and hurt, but after you ‘break them in’ they stretch and accommodate your wide Fred Flintstone feet, huh?
What Type of Stretching is Best
Static stretching is perfectly fine to increase ROM. If you choose the stand and stretch static category, you should hold your stretch for 15-30 seconds. However, the studies released show that this type impacts muscle strength.
It’s reffered to as “stretch-induced strength loss” pretty original, huh? The actual cause, though, has not been identified. Some say its neurological, others postulate its mechanical.
Some say if you contract your muscle right before you stretch it, that can reduce the issue and increase your ROM.
Because of the potential for reduced strength the ACSM recommends an active warm up prior to static stretching. Which is really a combination of ballistic and static stretching.
They also recommend you repeat each stretch 2-4 times after holding for 15-30 seconds.
Even if you lose a bit of strength, it is way better than suffering an injury that keeps you out of the game or off the weights for weeks at a time.
- Get in a minimum of 5 minute warm up. Cardio, jumping jacks or hops will work.
- Static stretch each muscle for 15-30 seconds, 2-4 times.
- If you are stretching before a game or competition, follow up the stretch with another light round of cardio to shake out the stretch.
You’re on the home ‘stretch’ of this blog. To boost your recovery and reduce muscle soreness, grab your muscle-building supplements packed with BCAAs here. Boom. Now that your brain got a workout in, go get warmed up before tearing up the gym.