Stretching has been something that was taught to us at a young age during P.E class in order to
prevent injuries. For the most part, one would stretch before exercise as a source of warm up
before the actual warm up, but never after exercise. Have you ever wondered if this is the right way to warm up and/or stretch before? When should you stretch? Is stretching bad for you? Well let’s break it down.
There are 4 types of stretching:
1. Static stretching= hold a particular position for a brief period of time.
2. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)= holding a particular position while
contracting and relaxing the muscle that’s been stretched
3. Dynamic stretching= performing repetitive movements such as arm swings gradually
increasing range of motion but generally staying within the normal range
4. Ballistic stretching= stretching that involves jerking or bouncing while holding a particular
Stretching is generally used to increase flexibility and mobility. How flexible should you be
strongly determines on what your current goal is. If you’re trying to hit parallel on a squat, you may need a decent amount of flexibility in your hips and ankles. If you’re trying to do back-flips, splits, or any gymnastic related activity, you may need more flexibility.
Should you stretch before exercise?
The answer is no. While stretching gives you a temporal increase in range of motion, your
performance will be hindered. Muscles are like springs. If they are too loose, they will lose
power and explosiveness. However, if they are too tight, a sprain may occur. Essentially if you are willing to sacrifice loss of power and strength for range of motion, is strictly
up to the individual.
How should I warm up then?
Typically a good warm up would be perhaps walking on the treadmill or elliptical, doing some
dynamic stretching that will mimic or generate the same movements you will be doing that day. Good warm ups are important for better performance as it increases blood flow, enabling
oxygen to reach your muscles to produce energy. One should experience a slight heart rate
increase during warm ups. Perhaps break a small sweat if possible.
Should I stretch after exercise?
Stretching after exercise reduces heart rate, bringing you into a calmer state of mind.
Stretching outside of exercise does increase flexibility and mobility. If you’re having a hard time stretching outside of your periods of exercise, stretching post exercise is severely encouraged!