A lot of myths about stretching before, during, and after exercise circulate through the athletic community. You may have heard that you shouldn’t stretch before exercise, that you shouldn’t bounce in a stretch for fear of tearing a muscle, or even that if you don’t stretch, you’re putting yourself in danger. While all of these assumptions are incorrect, they don’t answer the question: should you stretch before exercising?
The answer is kind of. Holding a static stretch can weaken performance in sports that require endurance, such as running or dancing. These stretches tire or even strain the muscles, making them work harder during the actual exercise. Holding a static stretch after exercising while still warm can be a good way of increasing flexibility while not tiring the muscles.
Rather than traditional, static stretching, experts suggest warming up via dynamic stretches. These are low-intensity exercises similar to your workouts, such as walking or lunges. Dynamic stretches like these allow your body to warm up slowly and gradually get used to the intensity of the workout. If you warm up before exercising, the chance of injury has been proven to decrease.
While this is a general recommendation, the amount of stretching/flexibility required for each sport varies. For example, runners don’t require a lot of flexibility to successfully perform their sport. In contrast, ballet dancers require a lot of flexibility to be successful. As long as the stretch is not painful, each athlete can adjust the amount of stretching that works for them.
In general, static stretching does not decrease the odds of getting injured. However, dynamic warm-ups before activity have shown the ability to decrease injury risk. For more information on safe exercise practices, please visit our blog to learn more. Or, to schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine specialists, click here.