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Wrong! If Stretching Is NOT the Best Thing to Do before a Workout, Then What to Do Instead?

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2. Stretching does not prepare your body for exercise.Stretching actually decreases your heart rate and doesn’t stimulate your nervous system to prepare for the high intensity workout you’re about to take on. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that stretching before you lift weights may leave you weaker and less coordinated during your workout.

3. Stretching alone, before a workout, might increase risk of injury.According to research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, stretching doesn’t prepare your muscles for eccentric loading (negative reps), which is when most strains are believed to occur.

Stretching might INCREASE risk of injury?!

But it feels so good.

Can we stretch AFTER to wind down?

Yes, once you're all warmed up.  Best time to stretch is after running, not before.  I know, I know:  counterintuitive.

So should you begin a run by walking to warm up?

Or hula hoop.  :)

Follow this three-step method to warm up wisely.

1. Walk.  Walk gently for three to five minutes. Lots of people write off walking. But it’s actually the ideal low-intensity activity to ease your body out of sitting mode and into workout mode. The motion of walking takes the muscles, tendons, and joints through a range of motion that’s similar to what it will go through in running, explains exercise physiologist Janet Hamilton, coach of Running Strong. This not only brings up the temperature of the muscles and the core, but it enhances the blood flow to all the muscles you’ll need for running and sends your brain the message that it’s time to go.  Walking is especially helpful for runners who are coming back after an injury.

2. Add strides. Do five to six 100-meter strides. Strides (also called “pick-ups”) flood the muscles with blood, recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibers, and help your body transition from walking to running mode. Here’s how to do them:

Jog easy for at least two minutes—preferably more.

Gradually accelerate over the course of 60 to 100 meters, then gradually decelerate.

After each stride, walk around and shake out your legs for 90 seconds.

Then stride back in the opposite direction.

Strides should not be timed, and the exact distance of each stride is not critical. 

Do not confuse “strides” with “overstriding,” warns Hamilton. Overstriding—extending your foot and leg far out in front of your knee—is a common cause of injury. Be sure to keep your steps short and quick as you’re doing the strides. Keep your feet and legs underneath your torso.

3. Do dynamic stretches.  Static stretching, where you hold a muscle in an elongated, fixed position for 30 seconds or more, is now discouraged prerun, as it’s been linked to injury. But dynamic stretching, which uses controlled leg movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently.

So "walk jog run" is more than Usain Bolt's catchphrase. It's the way to workout!

I love the hula hoop idea btw. 

So what should you do instead?

Perform a full body dynamic warm. Warming up will prepare all of your systems to ensure that you perform most efficiently in your workout. A good warm up should affect the heart, blood vessels, nervous system, muscles and tendons, along with the joints and ligaments. Additionally, a good warm up will sharpen your reaction time, enhance concentration, improve coordination and regulate your mental and emotional state. The warm up template below is a surefire way to ensure that your mind and body will be prepared to take on any workout.

  • 5–10 minutes of aerobic activity (jog, bike, row)
  • 5 minutes of dynamic stretching and mobilitywod work (arm swings, leg swings, lunges, neck rolls, mountain climbers, foam rolling, voo doo flossing)
  • 5 minute mental prep

By using this template and performing a makeover on your warm up rather than just stretching, here is how you’ll improve your health mentally and physically:

  • The aerobic activity will prepare your cardiovascular system for exercise.
  • The dynamic stretching will not only prepare your joints and ligament for similar movements you’ll be doing in your workout, but it will also raise and maintain body temperature as you enter your workout. (static stretching can drop your temperature).
  • By practicing visualization and including mental prep in your warm up, you’ll not only be laser focused for your workout, but you’ll improve movement efficacy lowering your risk of injury.

Things to do before (and during) your workout to prevent injury bonus tips:

I like the phrase "full body dynamic warm".

Basically, two principles to remember when stretching to improve athletic performance and health:

1) Performance: we want to get oxygenated blood expressed into all tissues before asking them to perform.  For skeletal (and cardiac) muscles this means invoking a similar range of motion that we are trying to perform but not under load... so if we're expect to run or sprint, then Usain Bolt's catchphrase works--walk, jog then run.  Similarly, if we expect to dead-lift 800 pounds, start with the bar alone and then add some light weights until the skeletal muscles feel warmed up and our cardiac rate is elevated.

2) Health: "stretching" in the West was primarily some idiot coach's incompletely derived amalgamation of eastern yoga practices in ways wholly misunderstood and improperly (as the article suggests) applied.  

The primary source of most all stretches given to amateur and professional athletes by idiot coaches has been from one of the six limbs of Hatha Yoga, being asanas (physical postures).  You can trace most all team sports' stretches to some fraction of an asana pose and its repose.  Here's a few insights into what asana practice accomplishes:

Asanas (with the other five limbs of Hatha yoga) are designed to prepare the student practitioner for attaining samādhi (a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna, which transcends the realms of body, mind and intellect, and where the logical and analytical ability of the being becomes silent).  The physical stretching of asanas unfolds greater ease, health and silence in the physical body of the practitioner through some simple mechanics:

a) physical alignment: rebalancing of oppositional skeletal muscle lengths and strengths

b) internal organ health and healing: when folding oneself like a pretzel at specific angles we force oxygenated blood out of and back into our organs and smooth, autonomous muscle tissues

c) rapid daily hygiene improvement: most Hatha yoga simultaneously focus on breathwork during asana practice ("stretching") so as to keep the blood fully oxygenated in order to nourish all organs and tissues completely, as well as to fully metabolize toxins and heal any damaged areas, and enabling the nervous system to reconnect, cleanse and relax itself to handling energy flow without inflammation.

After reading this several times my takeaway is: focus on breathing, not on stretching. 

Stretch AFTER a workout, not before:

Chronic (post-workout) stretching on warm muscles helps.

Static (pre-workout) stretching on cold muscles hurts.

Be moderately flexible!!

Great video find - wonderful Olympics viewing supplement. Thanks for stashing!

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