Chances are you were told that you should stretch before a workout. A little arm stretch here and a little hamstring stretch there … good to go. However, over the years, research has determined that old school static stretches are not necessarily the best things to do before your workout. Is pre workout stretching necessary? The better question is what kind of pre workout stretching is helpful or harmful?
What Kind of Pre Workout Stretching is Helpful?
Static stretching is a technique to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. Some types of static stretches include the shoulder stretch, side bends, hamstring and calf stretches. These stretches are generally held for about 30 seconds, as that is how long it takes for a muscle to gradually lengthen and muscle fibers to elongate.
Most fitness professionals today agree that dynamic stretching is better than static stretching before a workout. Dynamic stretching involves using active movements that mimic your actual workout to warm up and stretch your muscles. For example, many athletes, especially runners, perform dynamic stretches like walking lunges and butt kicks to help activate the muscles used in running.
Several recent research studies have questioned whether static stretching is actually beneficial for you before exercise, like previous thought. One study found that football players who did static stretches before a 20-meter sprint had slower times than those who didn’t stretch. And we all know how important it is to be able to run fast in a game of footy!
Dynamic stretching can also help reduce your risk of injury and improve athletic performance. Another research study found that university wrestlers who completed a dynamic warm-up for four weeks saw measurable improvements in their strength, endurance and agility. Dynamic stretching reduces injury because you’re not forcing your muscles to stretch, like in static stretching.
If you’re not sure how to start adding pre workout stretching to your workout, then talk to one of our staff members today or take one of our fitness classes. So, next time you hit the gym, skip the boring old hamstring stretch and try out some leg swings. You might find that you even run faster!