Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

For some, stretching in addition to a workout seems like the cherry on top of a sundae—a nice touch, but not necessary. Or maybe you think that touching your toes for a few seconds after a treadmill session is plenty. Turns out when (and how) you stretch your muscles can make or break your fitness goals.

Get Moving

Stretching before a workout is crucial for preventing injury as well as improving performance. Especially if you exercise right after waking up or if you’re pretty sedentary during the day, your muscles are going to be tight, says Noam Tamir, certified trainer and founder of TS Fitness. One study showed that stretching 15 minutes before a workout can help you avoid injury.

So what kind of moves are we talking about? “It’s best to do a dynamic warm-up before exercise,” Tamir says. As opposed to static stretches, which are held for 30 seconds or more in the same position (think toe touches), this type of stretching involves active movements that mimic your actual workout. For example, runnersoften perform dynamic stretches like hip circles, walking lunges, and butt kicks to activate the muscle groups used in running. During dynamic stretching, you’re constantly moving, so it provides a cardio warm-up as well, explains Julie Mulcahy, M.P.T., a sports medicine physical therapist.

Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but research also shows that dynamic stretching can help improve athletic performance. One study found that college wrestlers who completed a dynamic warm-up for four weeks saw improvements in strength, endurance, agility, and anaerboic capacity. Other research suggests that dynamic stretching enhances muscle performance and power output compared to static stretching.

The Problem With Holding Tight

Because the thought of doing a mini-workout before your actual workout sounds exhausting, many of us instead resort to a few half-hearted toe tugs after exercise. Static stretches like these focus more on relaxing the muscle and promoting flexibility than dynamic stretching, Tamir says, and can be good to add to the end of your gym session.

However, recent research has questioned the benefits of static stretching before a workout, suggesting it may lead to decreased athletic performance. One study found that performing static stretches before doing a barbell squat caused people to feel off-balance and lift less weight, while another showed that soccer players who did static stretches before a 30-meter sprint had slower times than players who didn’t stretch before the sprints. Finally, a meta-analysis of 104 studies concluded that static stretching had negative effects on strength, power, and explosive performance, and should be avoided altogether.

Another bummer: Some research suggests that stretching won’t do much to eliminate muscle soreness. In a review of 12 studies, researchers found that pre- or post-exercise stretching didn’t stop bothersome aches and pain. (The likely reason: Micro-tears in the muscle and surrounding connective tissue are to blame for soreness, which stretching won’t repair.)

The Bottom Line

Your best bet: Do some dynamic stretches before a workout, which can prepare your muscles and even improve athletic performance. With all the evidence against it, it’s probably smart to avoid static stretches before a workout. Still, Mulcahy believes static stretches can be helpful for people who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. She suggests loosening up hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, and back muscles with static stretches (post-workout) a few times a week. In the end, be sure to talk to a certified trainer to find a plan that best suits your fitness level and goals.

WOD

3 Rounds:

25 Air Squats
10 Hang Power Snatch
25 Air Squats

10 Hang Power Snatch

25 Air Squats

Rest 3 Minutes

Level 1: 75/55#
Level 2: 95/65#
Level 3: 115/75#

Core Down
2 Rounds:

12 Superman (2 sec Pause each rep)
1 Minute Couch Stretch Each Leg

Recommended Focus: Hang Power Snatch

MOD:
Craig 1600
Staci 1600
Barb 2006
Janet 1848
Ashleigh 1409
Bre 1509
Amber 1645
Thomas 1602
Joanne 2036
Monica 1644
HMroz 2036
Susie 1738
Trina 1622
Dave 1612
Nate 1418
Chris 1646
Mer 1430
Brad 1526
Denise 1652
Melanie 1640
Beth 1616
Patrick 1643
Shannon 1826
Erika 1553
Lyndsay 1945
Alejandra 1533
Ame 1509
Portia 1735
Jen R 1047
Kristi 1605

L1:
JFruh 1711
Tonya 1550
Richard 1818
Jim 1538
Tammi 1509
Amanda ?
Erin 1914
Amy B 1515
Carolann 1418
Jon 1429
Tweedy 1717
Hollywood 1748
Katie 1756
John A 1721
Christy 1409
Ryan 1549
Jason P 1537
KK 1505
Andy 1357
Carrie 1534

L2:
Max 2113
JoshC 1615
Sully 1836
Chris 1840
Joseph 2036
Jeff W 1703
Bob 6’9
Connor 1432
Cory 1311
Matt V 1708
Herder 1800
Curt 1433
Bill H 1543
Josh 1923
Travis 1759
Kannon 1540
KDawg 1350
Katie 1610

L3:
MattC 1705
Beth 1540
Belinda 1356
Terra 1305
Joe 1421
Max L 1506
Jenny 1550
Toph 1723
Kapitan 1844
Sarah 1412

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