It is an age old wisdom that stretching is must before a physical routine. A failure to do so could lead to injuries, muscle soreness and less than optimum performance. So, you would have often heard people advising to touch your toes, stretch your hamstrings ahead for 30 seconds and more, to loosen your body up, to make it stronger and to be injury free during the physical routine.
Of course, warm up is good for your body as it prepares your body for the physical challenge. Not only, it sends more oxygen and increases blood flow to the muscles, but also prepares or you can say alerts your body mentally about the upcoming physical strain. However, stretching is one thing that you shouldn’t include in your warm up routine.
The new evidence revealed by the research and studies point out that the so called static stretching can decrease sprinter’s speed and jumper’s height and that also without substantially decreasing the chances of getting hurt. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has stated that if you stretch before lifting weights, the chances are that you might feel weaker and wobblier during the workout. Here, are other reasons on why you should stop stretching right now.
Stretching and warming up is not same
More than often people tend to confuse stretching with warming up. If you go in a gym and question those present about their warm up routines, the most common response would be a list of certain stretching routines. And, don’t worry, if you are one of them. It is one of the most common mistakes. So, what is the proper warm up routine? Spend couple of minutes doing low intensity routines that mimic the upcoming workout. For example, walking before running, couple of push-ups before a chest workout and so on. This is the right warm up approach. This prepares your body and brain for the upcoming exercise routine and gets the breathing rate to the optimal level, the blood circulation and heart rate are also improved so that the blood, nutrients and oxygen supply to the muscles could be enhanced. The warming up also improves the lubrication of the joints, which stretching doesn’t do that effectively. From now on, don’t waste your time in touching your toes.
It undermines your warm-up
Not only, it is not a part of the warm-up process, but doing stretching also undermines your warm-up as well. Usually, the stretching routine is done after the warm-up. So, if you are going to do the stretching, you will have to stop your warm-up routine. Now, think about the negative effect of this stop or gap between warm-up and actual workout will have. The body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate will steadily and constantly drop once you start moving and start stretching. After couple of stretches, the body temperature and heart beat will be back where it was before the warm-up. The muscles would have already gone cold and the body won’t be prepared for a jump into the workout. This is one of the most prominent reasons why stretching shouldn’t be done before a workout.
It doesn’t prevents injury
A couple of years back, every fitness expert worth his salt had an opinion that stretching could prevent injuries. This is part of the reason why this belief is so entrenched in common fitness knowledge and wisdom. However, it should be noted that this belief at no point of time was backed by a consistent and incisive study or research. Yes, stretching is good for the body, it improves flexibility and makes muscles strong. And, this reason was used to create the myth that stretching can prepare muscles to undertake the strain of workout in a better way. The modern research and studies have proved that it is not so. Even, fitness trainers, athletic trainers and physical therapists accept that the stretching doesn’t prevent injury. Recently, in an article written by medical writer, Maria Cheng stated the findings of CDC experts who reviewed more than 100 stretching studies, it was claimed that “people who stretched before exercise were no less likely to suffer injuries such as a pulled muscle, which the increased flexibility from stretching is supposed to prevent.” So, if you have been stretching before a workout in order to avoid the instance of getting injured, stop doing it as it would save a lot of time.
It may actually cause injury
It is not just due to the fact that stretching undermines the warm-up process and is obstructive in achieving the ideal body state to start working out. Cheng has stated in the above mentioned article that sometimes the traditional stretches such as touching your toes or stretching your legs on the fence can tighten the muscles instead of relaxing them. And, it is a common knowledge that tight muscles are more liable to sprain or strain. There is a risk of overextending the muscles and the tightness can negatively affect your speed and range of motion when you start exercising. Although, the muscle tightness is important in some games that rely on muscle strength and power such as throwing a fastball or kicking a soccer ball, but on the whole, the tightness can make athletes more susceptible to performance related problems and injuries.
Please note that we are not firmly against stretching. The benefits of stretching are well known and there is no denying that it can improve the overall ability as well as agility of your body. In fact, we believe that people don’t do it enough. However, there is a time and moment for everything. The muscles pushed beyond their limits are often liable to get injured. Interestingly, the research has revealed that those who lie on the extreme ends of the flexibility scale are more likely to get injured, which means the most flexible and least flexible are more prone to injuries and problems. The normal range of flexibility which is also called the functional range of motion can assist in decreasing muscle tightness and keeping yourself active, mobile and capable. This could help you in avoiding many age related flexibility problems.
If stretching is important, then what is the best time for stretching? It is right after the workout. The stretching can form a key part of the cooling down process. As the muscles and joints are lubricated due to the workout, you will get more out of your stretches and it would assist in achieving the full range of motion. And, the best thing is you don’t have to worry about drop in body temperature and heartbeat. Also, the body in naturally relaxing after the workout and the stretching further amplifies the feel good factor.
Do change your stretching habits, but not the frequency. Aim to stretch regularly. Though, it will take some efforts and adjustment to get used to new stretching habit, but the benefits and reduced injury risks makes change worth it.