Growing up in youth sports and even into Division I athletics, I remember starting every wrestling practice with static stretching- touch your toes and “1,2, 3,….10”.
TURNS OUT, I WAS DOING IT ALL WRONG.
Now working in the physical therapy field in an active community like Crown Point, I often get asked: “Should you stretch before exercise?” For the average person, the answer is no.
Research has shown that static stretching before exercise:
1. Does not reduce risk of injury,
2. Actually decreases muscular strength output, and
3. Does not reduce post-injury soreness.
A BETTER WAY TO WARM UP IS TO DO SOMETHING CALLED A DYNAMIC WARM-UP.
A dynamic warm-up involves combining a light cardiovascular activity with gentle movements. A light cardiovascular activity such as a brisk walk or light jog for 5-15 minutes helps get your blood flowing to your muscles. Combine this with low-intensity, gentle movements for the activity you are going to be doing.
For example, if you are golfing, take a couple of gentle swings, start in only one half of your range, and slowly get to a full swing. If you are going to be lifting weights, do 3-5 repetitions at a light weight.
Don’t get the wrong impression that stretching is bad. In fact, it is a great way to cool down. And some sports DO require flexibility. If you are a dancer who needs to complete the splits, you need to be able to get into that position.
Ideally, perform stretching after a workout when your muscles are the warmest. For the average person, however, our bodies move in the range that we need.
Any questions about stretching or other activities? Send an email to Doctor of Physical Therapy and 2x Olympic Wrestler Matt Gentry.