Sonntag, 6. April 2014

Lifting Myth Nr.4

4. You should always stretch before you workout.

A lot of people think that if they stretch before or after their workouts that this will prevent muscle soreness, help with recovery, make them stronger or even faster. I know this sounds logical as a lot of professional athletes do it, so it has to be true,right?

But let's have a closer look :

  • Stretching prevents injuries:
I know and see a lot of people stretching before starting with aerobic exercises or weightlifting, because they think that this will prevent the risk of an injury, but that's not a 100% true. Stretching before exercising can not prevent injuries.  The SMBD-Jewish General Hospital did some research which revealed that a pre-workout stretch doesn't reduce injury rates. McMaster University made a research and obtained the same results. In fact, according to Dr. Ian Shrier, it is actually possible that you increase the risk of an injury as you damage your muscles. Therefore it doesn't seem very wise to stretch your muscles and then strenuously exercise.
Improving your flexibility won't help you in terms of preventing injury when you work out with weights. It's only useful when the activity requires great flexibility, while doing splits for example

an exercise which will help you improve your splits.

Actually warming up your muscles (not stretching) can help reduce injury rates as your body temperature raises due to the involved and repeated movements. People mistakenly attribute these benefits to the stretching rather than the warm-up and this is how the myth was born.

  • Stretching improves strength and muscle growth:
A lot of weightlifting routines start with a light stretch with the aim to increase strength and muscle growth but is that true or is it just another myth?

Research (2 groups of young males doing a series of jump squats) has shown that the group which stretched before the jumps had a lower jump height, power or maximum velocity than the group which didn't stretch before.

Another research revealed that a longer stretch, like 60sec. influences your maximal muscle performance in a negative way, whereas short stretching doesn't improve nor impair it either.
What about stretching and muscle growth? The assumption that stretching helps to stimulate muscle growth has been proven false by science.

stretching the hamstrings

  • Stretching improves your speed:

A research of Louisiana State's University showed that the stretching slowed 19 of their top sprinters down. They did the two sessions 1 week apart. Miami University did the same thing and the research revealed that static stretching results in a significant slowing in performance, especially in short distances like 100meters.

  • Stretching helps reduce muscle soreness and helps to recover:

I am sorry to spoil the surprise, but this can't be true. I have to admit that I thought this would work,but that was before I started lifting weights and hitting the gym. Stretching helps alleviate spasm, so it would only be a logical consequence that it would alleviate post-workout muscle soreness as well.

The University of Sydney proved this to be wrong as they involved the reviews of 10 studies on stretching and muscle soreness.

Neither hot or cold therapy nor post-workout stretching helped either rows to recover from stair climb running. They did the same test with football players and what a surprise, post-game recovery is not enhanced by stretching either. 
I am sorry to disappoint you!

A great exercise to stretch your hamstrings and calves

  • Dynamic stretching vs. static stretching:
After all , while stretching doesn't help to prevent injury, increase strength or muscle growth and speed, and doesn't decrease muscle soreness or accelerate recovery, stretching still has its uses. 
If you start a sport where a high amount of flexibility is required, such as gymnastics or ballet,static stretching will absolutely help you.
how to easily stretch your abs, your back and your adductors

I hurt myself once because I didn't stretch my adductors well enough and so I had to take a 2-month break from dancing which was quite annoying.

a great exercise to improve your hip flexibility

But to rejoice you again, there is a form of stretching which actually improves strength, power , muscular endurance and anaerobic capacity, speed and agility. It's called dynamic stretching.

What is dynamic stretching? 

Well dynamic stretching  involves movements that repeatedly puts your muscles through the expect ranges of motion , such as air squats, leg kicks, side lunges, arm circles and so on. 

before you do weighted walking lunges, I recommend to start with some bodyweight lunges.

This kind of stretching actually improves your performance as it increases the suppleness of your blood flow to the muscles, raises your body temperature and enhances a free and coordinated movement. This should be done before any type of exercise. 
For example: when my program says leg-day, I start by doing bodyweight squats or squats with the barbell only,without any weight on it. 

So if you really want to stretch before you workout, I recommend to do some dynamic stretching as it increases blood flow to your muscles which will be trained before you load your workout weights. 

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