Why You Shouldn't Stretch Before Exercise
I know, I know...it seems crazy, right?
We've all been there...plopped on the ground, trying to stretch out the 'ole hammies before a workout. Well you may be surprised to know that researchers have discovered that static stretching before exercise not only hinders performance, but it doesn't help with injury prevention like we once thought!
Studies have shown that static stretching prior to physical activity can actually reduce muscle elasticity, motor unit recruitment, and muscle spindle activation. These are all important components of performance and injury prevention.
Now before you roll out of bed and start doing 100m sprints, let's clarify what is recommended before exercise:
1. Light Aerobic Activity
The most important component of a warm up, is, you guessed it: warming up! The goal of a good warm up is to actually increase overall body temperature and vascularity (blood flow) to the muscles that are about to work. A light jog, brisk walk, or 5-10 minutes on a cardio machine (stationary bike, elliptical, stair master) should be enough to do the trick. You should be starting to sweat by the time you're done with this portion!
2. Dynamic Warm-Ups
Next on the list are dynamic warm-ups. With these, you will still be taking your muscles and joints through full range of motion, however you won't be performing a sustained static stretch. Some examples include air squats, butt-kicks, high-knees, lunges, hip swings, arm circles, floor taps, etc. These motions are essentially "priming" your muscles for the workout ahead.
3. Total Time
Okay so now you know what to do...the next question is how long should a proper warm up be? My personal recommendation is to spend about 25% of your total workout warming-up. This includes the aerobic portion and dynamic warm-ups. Even though it may sound like a lot, I'm willing to bet you will feel a dramatic difference after you give it a shot!
-The Virtual PT
*Disclaimer...there is a time and a place for static stretching...be on the lookout for a future post on this topic!*
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