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To stretch or not to stretch?

We always see that one person in the gym that walks in, does a workout then walks out without stretching BEFORE or AFTER?! (And probably leaves the weights out). You think to yourself that surely not good for them.

But is there any truth to that statement? Do we need to stretch before exercise?

Researchers at Flinders University, Australia looked into this and found that stretching before exercise doesn’t actually reduce the rate of injury (Baxter 2017). This means stretchings not going to stop you getting injured.

Well is it bad then?

I tend to describe stretching as making a muscle sleepy. If you make it sleepy, you dont wanna wake i up and make it run around for 45 minutes! Stretching for longer than 120 seconds REDUCES strength and performance. But when kept under 60 seconds, your flexibility improves and performance slightly improves (Chaabene et al 2019).

What’s going to keep you injury free then?

Instead, progressively increasing strength and performing balancing exercises is the best way to stop yourself getting injured! (Brummer et al., 2017)

BJSM talking about training myths

So what should you do?

This totally depends on your current fitness level, your sport, your previous injuries, and the activity you’re about to do!

Instead of stretches, I like to gradually warm the body up doing the movements that your activities require.

I’ll go through an example.

I’m lucky enough to treat a lot of Pickleballers –  a racquet sport. (See here – its great). This has lots of rotation, lunging, and swinging, so this is what I would recommend for them:

  • Standing: on the spot marching, knees to elbows, toe touches, and hip circles
  • Gentle lunges: forwards, backwards, and to each side
  • Punches: forwards, upwards, and to outwards.
  • Shoulder shrugs/rolls
  • Arm swings: forwards, backwards, in and outwards.
  • Start slow and build up the speed and range of motion.
  • This will take five minutes and by the end you should feel fully warmed up and maybe even have a sweat on!

But continue to stretch afterwards

Although stretching probably isnt going to improve your recovery time – it will make you more flexible and feel better (Apostolopoulos, 2018). When we feel better, we’re more likely to do the stuff that really works – gentle exercise. So perform your favourite stretches, or those that your osteopath has recommended to you then!

So how about you?

How do you like to warm up and prepare yourself for the gym or exercise? Let me know!

If you have any questions about how I can help you, get in contact!

Harry

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