The Truth About Stretching And Warming Up
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West
There are many schools of thought with regards to stretching, warming up, and cooling down. Let’s get one thing right before we start. Each individual has different needs and requirements for their own body. There is no universal principle that applies to everyone, whether it be stretching, working out, or eating. The most important aspect is to find out what works best for YOU and refine your craft from there.With that being said, here is the new school of thought about stretching.
“Although it’s often prescribed as an injury-prevention measure, static stretching before a workout might be the worst of all strategies.”
Static stretching before a workout forces your muscles to relax, in effect making them weaker in the short-term. This causes imbalances with surrounding muscle groups which will affect your strength gains and performance along with opening yourself up for injury.
“Static stretching also reduces blood flow to your muscles and decreases the activity of your central nervous system—meaning it inhibits your brain’s ability to communicate with your muscles, which limits your capacity to generate force.”
What To Do Instead
Self-myofascial release is a self-massage using objects like foam rollers, medicine balls, or even tennis and golf balls. Performing some SMR prior to training will increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscle. Also, SMR will alleviate any minor soft tissue restrictions that could hinder your performance.
Example: IT band foam roll
- Start by lying on your side, support your body weight with your legs and arms, and lie with a foam roller or ball under the upper, outside portion of your thigh – this is the proximal portion of your IT band.
- Use your legs and arms to roll the length of your IT band along the ball, traveling right down to just above your knee-joint. As you get closer to your knee, you may feel more tenderness, so be prepared to use your arms and legs to ease pressure off of your IT band.
- Complete for 30 seconds/body part.
Dynamic stretching improves your “active” flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor. Dynamic stretching also excites your central nervous system, increases blood flow, and increases strength and power production.
Example: Dynamic Inchworm
- Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, bend at the waist, keeping your legs as straight as possible, until your hands touch the floor about 8 to 12 inches from your feet
- Walk your hands out to pushup position (or extended out in front for shoulder activation as well)
- Walk your feet in toward your hands with short choppy steps. Complete for 15-20 yards.
Muscle activation utilizes exercises that improve the mind – muscle connection and ensures that all of the important stabilizer muscles are maximally turned on and functioning properly.
Example: Back bridge with single leg option
- Lying on the back with knees bent at 90 degrees, arms extended sideward at 45 degrees and feet on the ground, raise the hips off of the ground until the trunk and thighs form a generally straight line. The spine must not arch to achieve this position.
- With the buttocks still up, straighten the left leg until it aligns with the trunk and thigh. Don’t let the trunk and pelvis sag on the unsupported side. Hold five seconds, and then switch to the other leg.
- Repeat for one minute. If the spine begins to sag, arch, or tilt, lower to the starting position, rest for 3 to 5 seconds, then, try again
CNS Activation (Central Nervous System)
In the CNS Activation stage, fast and explosive movements are utilized to continue to prepare the body for a workout These types of activities are heavily CNS-dominant and therefore ensure that your CNS is primed and ready for the more intense lifts to follow.
Example: Box Jumps
- Stand in front of a sturdy box or bench, your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees, then jump onto the box, landing softly.
- Step down to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 8-12 reps.
When To Incorporate Static Stretching
“Improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching—as most poeple are advised—you’ll primarily boost your flexibility in that exact posture while moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you’re a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in sports and weight training, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions.”
Abandoning static stretching all together isn’t necessary. Most studies show to increase general flexibility you need to stretch twice a day, every day. Any less frequently and you won’t maintain your gains in flexibility. This is why most flexibility plans don’t work. A structured plan of post workout static stretching and stretching before bed(15-20 seconds/stretch) can help with your overall well being and general functionality as an upright human.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
From South Bend,