Stretching

Stretching

Flexibility is thought of as one of the cornerstones of fitness, yet implementing proper and timely stretching is an often controversial subject. First of all, there multiple applications and techniques such as ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching, active and passive stretching, as well as static stretching (confused yet?). Secondly, the topic has, as of late, simply come under a lot of scrutiny in terms of it’s effectiveness when used specifically as part of the pre-workout strategy. Some strength coaches and trainers feel that excessive stretching prior to the session will actually hinder power-output performance in the gym, or on the practice and playing field. In contrast, others still emphasize it’s importance “pre-workout” to offset injury and increase muscle “readiness”. For example, martial artists place an extreme emphasis on flexibility and proper stretching, which may help to properly align the skeleton and ease joint compression. Yoga practitioners rely on the importance of stretching and flexibility to help create a harmony and balance with their chosen art.

Although the debate over pre-performance stretching continues, it is generally agreed upon universally that stretching following the workout (while the muscles and/or joint areas are warm and more pliable) provides the safest and greatest benefit to enhance one’s flexibility and possible injury prevention. A safe approach to stretching (first of all consider stretching any muscle group only after it is warm and more pliable) is to first raise the body’s core temperature with an activity such as mild/moderate walking, jogging, etc. Gently move into the stretch position(s) and hold (no bouncing) the position for upwards of 30 seconds. Relax and repeat several times. You will find that more frequent stretching throughout the day (performed on “warm” muscles) will be more beneficial than mere periodic and haphazard attempts to increase flexibility.

No matter where you stand in terms of defining the value and benefit of pre-workout stretching and subsequent effects on flexibility, it’s my guess that everyone can benefit from incorporating a safe, consistent post-workout stretch protocol.