Do you really need to stretch to warm-up?
The answer is yes and no.
First thing first, you need to forget everything your high school gym teacher or your weekend warrior workout buddy has told you about stretching.
Second there are a couple of definitions I would like to clear up.
There are 2 types of stretching:
1.) Static Stretching – Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. It is composed of various techniques that gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position (to the point of discomfort) and hold that position for 30 seconds to two minutes. Bending over and touching your toes for an allotted amount of time is an example.
This forces the target muscle to relax, temporarily making it weaker. Static stretching also reduces blood flow to your muscles and decreases the activity of the central nervous system – decreases the ability of your brain to talk to your muscles.
If they can’t “communicate”, this will limit your ability to generate force..i.e..move, run, jump, push or pull.
2.) Dynamic/Active Stretching – Is the exact opposite of a static stretch. You move a muscle group in and out of a stretched position (think a forward lunge) with just your body weight.
So, Stretch or Not to Stretch?
Stretch actively, dynamically before you train…When it comes to preparing for a workout scrap the bending over and touching your toes and holding for prolonged periods at a time or any static stretching at all. Start preparing for the nature of the training session to come by moving in and out of ACTUAL movements involved in the workout.
And here’s some research to prove why you should NOT static stretch before your workout:
“Here’s why the difference matters: improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching you’ll primarily boost your flexibility in that EXACT position moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you’re a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in training and sports, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions. That’s why dynamic stretching is a necessary component of any program – It improves your “active” flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor”, says Bill Hartman, PT, CSCS.
“Plenty of research has shown that static stretching DOES NOT help you warm-up, ease muscle soreness, prevent injury or enhance performance…”, says Paul Ingraham, LMT.
Studies published in both the British Medical Journal (1999) and the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (2002) have found that static stretching has NO statistically significant effect on reducing muscle soreness or injuries.
A 2008 study of over 1,000 soldiers had half do static stretches and half not stretch found no difference in the frequency of injuries.
Check out how I actively/dynamically “prepare” my clients for their workouts (I also do this before my own workouts):
I would love to hear what you do to prep for your hard training sessions. Leave me your thoughts below.
Committed to YOUR fitness success,