Is Stretching Really Necessary?
Do you stretch before exercise? If so, stop! According to the latest research, this habit can do more harm than good. It affects strength and endurance, reduces muscle power, and impacts overall performance. Passive stretching is the worst.
Feeling confused? Keep reading to find out more:
Why Stretching Might Be Bad for You
Stretching has long been praised for its ability to prevent injuries and boost flexibility. A couple of years ago, everyone was doing it. Health experts recommended stretching to increase range of motion and warm up for exercise. However, most claims lack scientific evidence.
According to a 2013 report that included over 104 studies, muscle strength dropped by 5.5 percent in subjects who stretched before training. This effect worsened if the stretchlasted for over 90 seconds. At the same time, physical performance decreased by 3 percent.
Other studies have found that stretching before or after exercise has no impact on muscle soreness. On top of that, being too flexible isn't necessarily a good thing. In clinical trials, the most flexible athletes were 2.5 times more prone to injury compared the least flexible ones.
Stretching before exercise could make you feel weaker and affect muscle power. Holding the stretch for more than 60 minutes increases injury risk. Scientists believe that the actual stretching of tendons weakens the muscle.
Additionally, this habit doesn’t prevent injuries as it was once thought. On the contrary - it impacts your stability and balance, which may result in injury. Moreover, it causes your muscles to tighten, making pain worse.
Should You Give Up Stretching Completely?
From a medical perspective, stretching has its perks. When done right, it improves your postures, maintains joint flexibility, and lengthens muscle tissue. It's also a good way to relieve stress and get your body moving. Just make sure you do it AFTER, not before working out.
You can also stretch on your off training days. This way, you'll keep active and enjoy better circulation. To stay safe, don't do it before hitting the weights room or the treadmill.
How to Warm Up for Exercise
Contrary to popular belief, stretching isn't the same as warming up. A well-structured warm-up routine will prepare your body for training and get your blood flowing to the muscles worked. It may also result in greater power, strength, and range of motion. Other benefits include:
- Increased joint mobility
- Increased blood temperature
- More efficient cooling
- Positive hormonal changes
- Enhanced mental focus
- Improved concentration
- Stress relief
- Reduced injury risk
- Reduced muscle tension
- Improved coordination and reaction time
- Core activation
- Regulates your heart rate
- Improved oxygen and nutrient flow throughout the body
- Increased muscle elasticity
- Increased joint safety
When you're warming up, your body temperature increases by up to two degrees Celsius. This helps improve circulation, prepares your heart for physical effort, and gives your metabolism a boost.
Dynamic stretching appears to work best for warming up. For instance, you can do lunges, bodyweight squats, push-ups, arm circles, biceps curls, or high knees. Focus on the muscles that you're planning to train.
If it's leg day, stretch your whole body for a minute or minute. Next, do lower body stretches for another 10-15 minutes. This will lower injury risk and increase blood flow to your muscles.
Warm-up duration depends on your age, fitness levels, type of training, and weather conditions. You must also consider for long your workout will last. The shorter your workout, the less time you'll spend warming up.
- Static stretching doesn't prevent injuries or boost physical performance.
- Stretching before exercise affects muscle strength, power, and endurance.
- It can also increase injury risk and slow down your progress in the gym.
- The best way to warm up is to perform dynamic stretches. Focus on the muscles that you're going to train.
- A proper warm-up will keep you injury-free and improve athletic performance.