Runners do it before a race. Swimmers do it before hopping in the pool. Your average gym rat does it before starting to pump iron. Most coaches, gym teachers, and personal trainers preach that stretching before exercise is an essential part of both avoiding injury and improving performance. But while it’s still popularly considered a basic tenet of health and wellness, scientific research into the value of stretching has cast doubt on its usefulness. For many athletic pursuits, studies suggest that stretching might actually be detrimental.
Even for those who follow fitness science closely, old habits die hard and many may be loath to give up stretching. “Because stretching decreases…
Is it the next Pilates? Can it make you taller? Our columnist booked a session.
Stretches are a ritual for many would-be athletes – but some moves could be a waste of time, and others could hamper performance
Done correctly, these restorative stretches, working on muscles from your eyes to your toes, really do make you feel better.
Starrett, who founded The Ready State, an online movement coaching service and gym in San Francisco, says they’ve stopped talking about “flexibility” when it comes to movement. It has become too associated with traditional static stretching and being bendy (which can come with a whole host of its own problems), rather than moving better or being pain-free. Instead, he prefers to talk about things in terms of mobility and mobilizing.
At gyms and studios across the country, ‘flexologists’ are trying to turn pushing and pulling into a specialty
Dynamic stretching has instead become more popular during warm-ups. Dynamic stretching involves deliberately moving a limb repeatedly through its entire range of movement.
Dynamic stretching doesn’t impede performance the way static stretching does. In fact, it may even increase muscle strength while still providing the short-term increases in ﬂexibility offered by static stretching. Before doing any type of exercise, a bit of dynamic stretching is recommended.
The answer could depend on how we feel about stretching and what kind of exercise — and stretching — we intend to do.
StretchLab offers assisted stretching to those who have weary, knotted muscles with a goal of improving flexibility, relieving pain and correcting imbalances in the body, among other benefits. While the one-on-one and group stretching sessions differ in some ways, StretchLab combines the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) approach with dynamic and static stretching to increase range of motion and maximize benefits during all stretch sessions.
Stretching is a key component of any well-rounded exercise routine. And yet this vital element is often overlooked by many of us.
Strength training is a remarkably effective way to counteract stiffness.
Most people understand that stretching before exercise is important; it loosens you up and improves your flexibility. But too much stretching – meaning upwards of 60 seconds – will weaken your muscles and could hamper your workout. One of foam rolling’s big selling points is that it can improve flexibility to a similar extent as stretching, but with an important added bonus – it doesn’t impair strength. Foam rolling can also improve performance if combined with stretching. This may be better than doing one or the other, but as yet the research evidence is inconclusive.
) Runners and cyclists can adequately warm up, Dr. McHugh says, by jogging or pedaling lightly. But he suggests that people who play basketball, soccer, tennis and ultimate Frisbee — or other sports that involve leaping, sprinting and forceful, potentially muscle-ripping movements — should stretch in advance. Those who haven’t stretched since childhood gym class might want to consider consulting an athletic trainer about the best upper- and lower-body stretches, particularly for the shoulders, hamstrings and thighs.
Simply put, flexibility is important for everyone.
With that said, there’s a lot of misinformation and controversy about stretching, so in this post, we’ll address some of those, and make some recommendations about best practices.
Most of us grew up hearing that we should warm up with a stretch. Strike and hold a pose, such as touching your toes, for 30 seconds or more, we were told, and you’ll be looser, stronger and injury-proof. But anyone who follows fitness science — or this column — knows that in recent years a variety of experiments have undermined that idea.
Regular stretching may help to boost cardiovascular fitness in people who are unable to exercise due to surgery or poor health, according to a small study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
Stretching is perhaps one of the most controversial fitness subjects of present day. Passionate debates arise between those who perceive the benefits of stretching and those, like me, who think stretching is one of the worst activities you can partake in, especially if you’re already injured. It’s a tradition that’s hard to break because so many of us have the stretching necessity ingrained in our heads as we’ve listened to coaches, trainers, professional athletes, researchers, and doctors throughout our fitness lives.
Recent studies caution people away from stretching before workouts, suggesting it actually impedes your body’s performance. According to this research, runners run more slowly, jumpers jump less high, and weight lifters lift more weakly by stretching, without significantly ensuring against injury during their exercise.
The good news is that, along with doing some simple stretches, making ergonomic adjustments to your work environment can significantly reduce the daily discomfort most desk jockeys deal with.
But you might want to do it anyway.
“Stretching is especially important in our modern world because we don’t have as many slow movements integrated into most of our lives anymore,” said Diane Waye, the owner of Stretching by the Bay, a studio in San Francisco. “We need to keep our range of motion open to help prevent joint disease, pain and posture issues and to improve athletic performance.”
You may think of stretching as something performed only by runners or gymnasts. But we all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence. "A lot of people don't understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily," says David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
It seems like dogma that you need to stretch before or after you exercise, or you'll risk getting hurt.
So it might come as something of a surprise that the actual data on how stretching affects injury risk is decidedly mixed.
One concern that has been brought up time and time again is what is considered a bad stretch and what is a good stretch. When should you stretch, and when should you not stretch?
There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the value – or lack thereof – of muscle stretching to accelerate recovery after exercise. “Stretching clears out your lactic acid,” and other similar claims abound. Is any of this true?
First, it is important to understand the difference between stretching for recovery and stretching for remodeling.
The pre-exercise ritual can weaken muscles, hurt athletic performance, and even lead to injury.
This is not a campaign against stretching. I firmly believe that most people benefit greatly from stretching and don't do it enough. But it should be done at the right time and not pushed to the limits.
No matter where you are in the world, you can always find something to lean on so you can stretch your muscles.
Stretching may not be the most exciting part of working out, but doing flexibility work is just as important for a well-rounded fitness routine as strength and cardio work. Incorporating some stretching exercises into your workout schedule will help you improve flexibility, reduce tightness, and ultimately, make your workouts more efficient and safe.
My Mission…is to help people improve their health and well-being through improved flexibility and mobility; an often neglected component of physical fitness.
Do stretching exercises improve flexibility? If so, what kind of stretches are best? Is it best to do your stretching exercises before a work out, after exercise, or both? Does stretching enhance athletic performance or does it diminish it? Can an athlete prevent injuries with stretching?
Stretching and flexibility video classes.
No two bodies are the same and no two stretches at StretchLab are the same. One-on-one stretching is about identifying tightness and imbalances in your body and customizing a stretch routine that is just for you. Our clients may come in with pain, tightness or specific focus areas, but they keep coming back and commit to their flexibility journey once they experience the freedom that comes with having a wider range of motion and flexibility.