A question that I continually get asked by my clients and students is “when should I stretch or should I even bother?”  This has not changed all the years I have been in the fitness business.  There have been so many myths regarding stretching that everyone seems to be confused.

I always cringe when I see someone walk into the gym and just start lifting heavy weights with no warm up what so ever. Or when I see someone just about to play a sport be it running, tennis, basketball, etc, and they start stretching with no warm up at all. Both are a guarentee set up for injury.  

The truth is stretching cold muscles can do more harm than good.  One analogy that has always stood out for me is the image of taffy and trying to bend or mold it with out warming it between your fingers first.  Think of this image as your muscles without any kind of cardio warm up. 

So what should you be doing when it comes to warm up and stretching?  

Here is what I recommend:

Start with at least a 10-minute cardio warm up as a good rule of thumb before starting any exercise routine or training.   This can be as easy as jumping jacks, running in place, jump roping, or any type of cardio equipment of your choice.  Once you have ‘warmed’ up and have gotten your blood pumping through your entire body you’re set to go.  Here you can do a short bit of dynamic stretching and wake up your muscles a bit more.p>

There are two kinds of stretching dynamic and static:

Dynamic stretching is active stretching, stretching during controlled movements. It is not bouncing or ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. It can be used as a warm up if done for at least 10 minutes. p>

Static stretching is where you hold a position for more than 30 seconds in order to elongate a muscle , it should be done after the activity. These types of stretches are designed to target the muscle groups, one at a time and to lengthen them.

Stretching after your work out when your muscles are the warmest is the best time to take a few and elongate those muscles used.

Truths about stretching:

*Injuries are complicated but one way to keep them away is to stretch.

*Soreness can not be taken away by stretching but it definitely can  help

*Stretching is the best way to reach its benefits, which are:

-increased flexibility, range of motion, and potentially reducing the risk of muscle pain.

-Everything is connected, stretch one area and another will also benefit.

So there you have it.. now that you understand stretching and when and why to do it try not to ignore it, think of stretching as part of your work out.

Articles sited:  Sports Fitness Advisor (Dynamic Stretching)

                         Laura Schwecherl  (The 12 biggest myths about stretching)

                         Guilford Orthopedic (Myths vs. Reality)

Jessica Spinks