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The Risks of Stretching Before Exercise

The Risks of Stretching Before ExerciseWe all learned the importance of stretching when we were in school and can probably still remember bouncing up and down trying to reach our toes to “stretch” our hamstrings before running around the track. While stretching remains to be very important, we now know there are significant risks of injury if done at the wrong time or the wrong way.

What if I was to tell you stretching before physical activity is more likely to hurt you than to help you? You would think I was crazy, right? It’s true! Stretching before you warm up is not a good idea at all, because stretching cold muscles rips muscle tissue, pre-fatigues your muscles, and increases the risk of tearing or straining a muscle as well. Think of cold muscles as dry sponges, very brittle and easily torn.

Let’s be clear, I’m not telling you not to do anything before you exercise. In fact, it’s very important to prepare your body for exercise! You do this by warming the muscles up, mobilizing the joints, practicing the movement patterns you plan to do during your workout, and getting your blood pumping with a few low impact exercises. Still, stretching is an important part of every workout and is a great way to promote recovery when practiced after exercise, but it’s all about timing.

So, when should you stretch?

The best time to stretch is during your cool down, and in some cases during your workout. Stretching after workouts is great since it gives your cardiorespiratory system time to return to resting levels all while taking precautions that will help limit soreness and help keep those hard-earned muscles loose.

What’s the best method for stretching you ask?

Static stretching in most cases is best. Static stretching is very beneficial and involves stretching a specific muscle by holding that stretch for at least 30-60 seconds. Bouncing during stretching, called ballistic or dynamic stretching, can be detrimental and does not lead to more permanent stretching. This activity can be dangerous because it causes stress on the joints and can lead to hyper-extending a muscle by not being able to judge just how far a stretch is possible. Static stretches, when held for at least thirty seconds, works to lengthen muscles and lead to flexibility.

Just remember, if you don’t hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds you are not going to get the benefit! Safe stretching everyone!

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Saturday, June 25, 2022