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Stretching – Yay? or Nay?

November 17, 2011

I receive this question all the time: “What’s the best stretch for me?” or “Do I have to stretch?” And my reflex answer always sounded like “Yes you need to stretch to help ease those sore muscles.”

But you know what? The further I travel down the road of experience with training, the less I fully believe in stretching. That’s not to say that you SHOULDN’T stretch. But many reports and peer reviewed articles (like yesterday’s PhysEd from NY TIMES) throughout the years still fail to prove stretching does good, or harm.

In practice, I always do some sort of dynamic stretches before I set off on an intense exercise session. You’ll benefit from an increase in your range of motion around the major muscle groups (like in the hips, or your shoulders if you’re swimming or throwing). You’ll also increase your heart rate, priming your cardio-pulmonary system for the upcoming workout session.

My other advice, shy away from static stretches (stretch and hold for 10-30 seconds) before intense exercise sessions. Static stretching has been linked to decreased muscle firing capabilities during exercise, leading to a decrease in power output for those intense exercise sessions.

Injured? I’ve done  plenty of physical therapy where stretching was an intense part of rehabbing the injury.

So stretching isn’t all bad…What do you think – do you obsessively stretch? Or do you stretch just enough to get by?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 10:43 pm

    I find that stretching after a workout is what works for me. I generally do low intensity warm ups when teaching a step class or a spin class and save the stretching for the end.

  2. Adrienne permalink
    November 25, 2011 10:14 am

    I like stretching after a workout or before bed to loosen up, especially if I’ve been working out a lot or are sore from intense efforts. I’ve never found stretching to help much before a workout or race. Personally, I enjoy stretching as it does improve range of motion and overall flexibility.

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