Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v07n08)
Gettin' Ripped in Ripple - by Laura Minor
posted: Apr. 16, 2010
Stretching. . . .The Truth
If you are a regular reader of this column (and I hope you are!) you probably have noticed that one of my favorite topics include common misconceptions, contradictions, and myths in the fitness arena. One area that seems to be mysterious to many is whether to stretch before or after exercise, or both (or even not at all). People often do not accurately understand the benefits of stretching. Also, often times, clients think that stretching should prevent them from feeling sore after a challenging workout. There is a lot of conflicting opinions and information out there about how, when and why to stretch. I am basing my comments on the large majority of research and studies. Hopefully, I can clear up some of the confusion on this topic.
Traditionally, we were taught that stretching is key before a workout. But recent research disagrees with the old adage of static stretching before a workout. It is now believed that static stretching before a workout, besides being a waste of time, is also detrimental to performance. In a recent study conducted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. In another study, it was found that stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30%!
Most research also suggests that stretching doesn't prevent muscle soreness after exercise. For example researchers Robert Herbert, Ph.D., and Marcos de Noronha, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney conducted a review of 10 previously published studies of stretching either before or after athletic activity. They concluded that stretching before exercise doesn't prevent post-exercise muscle soreness. They also found little support for the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent either overuse or acute sports injuries.
So, if stretching before a workout doesn't prevent soreness or injury risk, you are probably wondering when you should stretch or even if you should at all. Yes, you should absolutely stretch your muscles regularly as part of a well-rounded wellness regimen. A regular stretching program increases flexibility and joint range of motion, and improves circulation. It also helps to prevent your muscles from getting tight which can improve your posture. Plus, stretching just feels good and reduces stress; that is definitely a plus! All of these reasons warrant the need for a regular stretching program.
The best time to stretch is when the muscles have been warmed up such as after a cardio or strength workout. Dynamic stretches where one slowly moves in and out of the position are also a good way to "warm up" before activity, it is the static stretch that you will want to avoid. As I said before, statically stretching a cold muscle can lead to decreased performance or even injury. After a workout, your muscles are warm and more elastic, and stretching increases your flexibility and maximizes the range of motion around your joints. You should stretch all the major muscles groups that you used during your workout. There are a lot of good stretch routines online, but if you work with a trainer, physical or massage therapist, I would recommend having him/her put together a stretching routine catered to you and your specific needs.
Laura Minor owner and operator of So.Be.Fit. Personal Training and Fitness studio located at 54th and the Monon. She is passionate about teaching others how to "FIT" exercise and physical activity into their daily lives, and have fun while doing so! Visit her website at www.sobefitindy.com or e-mail laura@BroadRippleGazette.com