Stretching: When and Why

stretch

I thought when I started researching this topic that there would be some cut and dry answers to my questions. Instead, it turns out there is a lot of contradicting advice. Some writers swear a static stretch routine following a workout or run reduces muscle soreness and fatigue, yet others say they never stretch post-workout and have yet to see any ill effect.

While no two sources seem to agree on the specifics of when or why to stretch, when we look at the bigger picture a sort of consensus begins to emerge.

To begin, we should differentiate between two different types of stretches. Static stretches are what we remember from gym class, the ones we hold for about 15 to 30 seconds. Dynamic stretches involve movement and are used to loosen up a muscle and increase its range of movement.

stretch2

Static stretching before a workout is a bad idea and is frowned upon by every expert I came across. This is because our muscles aren’t warmed up and therefore it’s easier to injure them. Instead, we should warm up with dynamic stretches targeting the muscles we plan on using during our workout.

According to science, stretching after a workout won’t reduce the amount of time we need to recover from our workout. That doesn’t mean that stretching after a workout isn’t good for us. In fact, it’s one of the best times to stretch since our muscles are already warmed up. Some even extol the psychological benefits of static stretching after a workout. The idea is that it helps us to reflect on our workout and center ourselves after exertion.

I’m going to use dynamic stretching before my workouts this week and do static stretches afterwards. I’ll let you know if I notice any difference.

Here are the many sources I looked at for this article:

http://www.runnersworld.com/the-starting-line/should-i-stretch-before-or-after-my-runs

http://www.runnersworld.com/stretching/do-you-stretch-after-running

http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2012/01/16/how-to-stretch/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735398

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15076777

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/how-to-stretch?page=2

http://certification.acsm.org/blog/2013/april/keeping-up-with-cooling-down

http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=2206

http://darebee.com/warmup-and-stretching.html

http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/injury-prevention/dynamic-stretching-vs-static-stretching_54248

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