In my previous post I stated the benefits of dynamic stretching before working out and static stretching after exercising. So are we really getting the best benefits from stretching? Are we even stretching out correctly? It turns out that we just may be stretching out the wrong way for the wrong reasons. So let’s debunk some common myths when it comes to stretching so we can stretch the right way.
Myth #1: Static stretching should come first. Again, go back to my previous post that explains that static stretching before a workout when the body is at rest can be detrimental, since muscles may actually tighten up in the process. Now static stretching after a workout is typically beneficial, since it helps the warmed-up muscles to relax. Truth: Do static stretching after a workout–not before.
Myth #2: A bit of light cardio is the perfect warm-up. A quick jog is not all you need before hitting the courts, the weight room, or the elliptical. Dynamic stretching (think walking lunges, power skips, running butt kicks) in addition to some light cardio will warm up muscles and prep the body for a safe and effective workout. Truth: A proper warm-up should include dynamic stretching as well.
Myth #3: Stretching won’t help performance. Dynamic stretching involve movements that jump start range of motion, making them an excellent warm-up solution. And, as the name suggests, studies show that these moves may even help to power-up those muscles. Truth: Dynamic stretching may give muscles an added power boost.
Myth #4: Stretching prevents injury. Studies are finding that stretching will not necessarily prevent injury. Injuries occur due to many factors, including poor technique, muscle imbalances, and not warming up properly. On a positive note, injury risk may be minimized by stretching regularly as part of a warm-up and cool down. Truth: Injuries can be caused by numerous factors, but stretching may be one way to keep them to a minimum.
Myth #5: Stretching eliminates soreness. Not so. In a study of over 2,000 adults, stretching before and after exercising did not stop workout aches and pains. Truth: Post-exercise soreness comes from micro tears in the muscles, and stretching is not effective in preventing those tears and subsequent soreness (and soreness can strike any athlete, regardless of their stretching regime).
Myth #6: Stretching a couple of days each week is sufficient. We may not want to hit the gym seven days a week, but consistent stretching is the key to increasing flexibility, range of motion, and potentially decreasing the risk of muscle strain. Truth: Stretching consistently is the best way to reap its benefits.
Myth #7: A 5 minute warm-up should cut it. (see Myth #2). A proper warm-up often involves dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and then light cardio. Truth: When it come to warming up, take 10-15 minutes at least!
Myth #8: Stretching one particular muscle group will only relieve strain in that area. Are you sore in a particular spot? The source may be a different muscle group altogether. For example, lower back discomfort is not necessarily because you forgot to stretch out your lower back–it just may be due to tight hip flexors! Truth: Everything is connected–stretch one area and another may benefit as well.
Myth #9: All individuals require the same amount of stretching. Got a desk job? Working long hours at a desk can lead to seriously stiff muscles. So remember office workers…your muscles just may need a little extra attention before and after working out. Truth: Sedentary workers may need to stretch more than others.
Myth #10: “I’m already flexible–there’s no need to stretch.” Not necessarily so…Dynamic stretching and warming up are still very important for everyone in order to improve blood flow to the muscles. And something else to remember…Neglecting to stretch may also decrease flexibility over time. Truth: Continue to stretch, even after flexibility goals are achieved.
If you or someone you know is not sure of a proper warm-up or cool-down routine, or have general questions re: safe and progressive workouts, or you have a nagging injury that just refuses to let you move forward in your fitness or functional goals, call my office at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!