Gasp! Did a physical therapist really just recommend to stop stretching?
Yep, that’s right.
Okay, so maybe don’t stop stretching all together, but let’s figure out the type, time, and place.
Here we go.
Stop stretching before your workouts!
Static stretching, that is.
Ready, set, STOP. No more quad stretch before heading out on your 3-mile run, no more figure-4 before beginning yoga, no more throwing your leg up on the spin bike for a hamstring stretch.
I am giving you permission to officially stop.
Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone?
I’m going all the way back to my AYSO soccer glory days.
Our team gets ready for warm-ups. We meet in a circle in the middle, throw our arms across our chests and start loudly counting, “1, 2, 3…”, switching it up to the other side 20 seconds later.
What the heck are we stretching, and why are we doing this? I certainly had no idea, and I’m pretty sure neither did our coaches (sorry Dad).
I’m sure most of you are thinking, “Well, it helps prevent injury” or “It’s a good warm-up.”
Well, we have been duped most of our lives!
Turns out static stretching is not effective at reducing injury prior to activity and can actually be detrimental to our performance. Studies have recently shown that static stretching can temporarily reduce your power output and overall strength for 30-60 minutes post stretching.
Yep, that’s right. Stretching can make you weaker! Weaker muscles=greater risk of injury and sadly being left in the dust…or just simply reducing the effectiveness of your workout (Note that I pointed out weaker muscles contribute to greater injury…not tight muscles.) Hello working harder for mehhhh results.
I guess that explains why I never found my soccer calling…thank God for participation trophies!
So you need to warm-up but what do you do?
Enter, dynamic stretching.
I bet you can guess the difference here, but to put it simply, dynamic stretching involves more movement at the joints and muscles usually through repetitive motions versus a prolonged hold.
Research has shown that dynamic stretching will actually increase your power, strength, and overall performance during your workout!
Dr. Zachary Getz of Gotham Physical Therapy puts it very simply. “Do a warm-up that resembles the activity you’re about to do, but at a lower intensity. Walk briskly then jog before you run. Lift light weights before you lift heavy weights. Toss a ball softly before throwing hard. It’s pretty simple.”
I would have to agree. Pretty dang simple.
If you still want some specifics, here are some moves I like doing before a total body workout.
I love to throw in other exercises such as squats, alternating forward kicks, lateral lunges. Just get moving!
So does this mean static stretching goes out the window?
Not if you don’t want it to.
There are benefits of static stretching, just not what we normally think!
If you enjoy it, keep doing it. Just not before your workouts.
Use it for relaxation, unwinding at the end of the day, relaxing a muscle temporarily in spasm, after a workout to increase blood flow, etc
Moral of the story: stop standing still, and get moving!
Still not convinced?
Head over to Gotham PT’s post for a quick synopsis of over 10 recent studies regarding this controversial subject.