Most of us have been taught from a younger age that failing to stretch earlier than or after exercising is akin to a mortal sin. Skip your stretching routine, the considering goes, and also you’ll be extra susceptible to damage, soreness and a usually worse exercise.
However is that this knowledge backed by science? And do you really want to stretch earlier than and after each train? “The best strategy to reply that query can be no,” stated Dr. Samantha Smith, an assistant professor of scientific orthopedics and rehabilitation on the Yale College of Medication.
However the longer reply, specialists say, is that it is dependent upon the kind of exercise you’re doing in addition to your health objectives. Right here’s why.
What the analysis suggests
In the event you’re about to do an train that doesn’t contain a wide variety of movement, similar to a jog for a couple of miles at a comparatively regular tempo, you don’t have to stretch beforehand, stated David Behm, a analysis professor in sports activities science at Memorial College of Newfoundland in Canada. (There are a lot of various kinds of stretching, however for this story, we’re speaking about static stretching, the place you maintain nonetheless ready to elongate a muscle.)
In such a case, a easy warm-up with dynamic actions — like lunges, squats, butt-kicks and excessive knees — will adequately put together your physique.
Whereas some proof is conflicting, the majority of analysis additionally means that static stretching has no impact on — or could even hinder — your efficiency throughout energy and energy coaching. (Energy coaching entails performing strikes like jumps or explosive lifts to work on each pace and energy.)
Dr. Behm stated that energy workout routines involving massive actions, like squats or bench presses, will lengthen muscle tissues in the identical manner that stretching does. So stretching earlier than a lifting session wouldn’t enhance your efficiency (or be an awesome use of your time). And, Dr. Behm stated, stretching can barely fatigue your muscle tissues and tendons, so in the event you stretch your quads and glutes earlier than you do squats, for instance, that will really hinder your exercise.
Many individuals stretch earlier than figuring out to scale back their danger of damage, however there’s a variety of conflicting proof on that matter as effectively, Dr. Behm stated. As an example, he and his colleagues present in a 2021 overview that whereas static stretching earlier than train didn’t at all times lower the chance of damage, it did scale back muscle and tendon accidents when accomplished earlier than workout routines requiring agility and explosive actions, like sprinting, leaping or pivoting.
Supreme preparation for train is available in two steps, stated Eduardo De Souza, an affiliate professor of well being sciences and human efficiency on the College of Tampa. First, you must increase your physique temperature with a warm-up — mild jogging, bounce rope or mild biking, for instance. “And you then do a rehearsal of the actions for what comes subsequent.”
Which means dynamic actions that stretch your muscle tissues’ full vary of movement — assume strolling lunges or arm circles.
What about stretching after a exercise?
Many individuals stretch after a exercise as a result of they assume it should support their restoration and reduce soreness, Dr. Behm stated. However “the literature could be very blended on that” too, Dr. Smith added. With regards to stretching after lifting weights to forestall muscle soreness, for instance, “there have been research which have proven a constructive profit and research which have proven no profit,” she stated. Likewise, in a 2021 overview, researchers discovered no proof that static stretching after a exercise sped restoration (or did something helpful in any respect). That stated, Dr. Smith hasn’t seen any proof that stretching as a part of a settle down after a exercise is dangerous.
In one other 2021 overview, Dr. Behm and his group discovered that stretching to attenuate soreness solely works in case you have a constant stretching routine, separate from different exercises, that you just did recurrently earlier than you began doing strenuous train. These stretches ought to final for 30 to 60 seconds for every muscle group, and be carried out not less than twice per week.
After a exercise you must do a correct cool-down, and stretching is a method to try this, Dr. De Souza stated — as is foam rolling or strolling. Although, he added, there’s not sufficient analysis to find out what cool-down technique will make you are feeling the most effective after a exercise.
When must you stretch?
In the event you’d wish to enhance your flexibility or mobility, then stretching varied muscle teams for about 30 to 60 seconds every day might help with that, Dr. Smith stated. It can be useful in methods you’ll have by no means even realized.
Folks don’t typically consider stretching for flexibility as its personal sort of train or exercise, Dr. Smith stated, however making some extent so as to add a separate stretching routine to your weekly exercise routine might help you attain your flexibility objectives.
Stretching may assist loosen tight muscle tissues. However watch out, Dr. Smith stated, since “an injured muscle or a weak muscle is ceaselessly a good muscle.” If a muscle feels tight and painful, that’s an indication that it may very well be injured, so you must see a well being care supplier earlier than you begin stretching it.
Different advantages of normal stretching embrace improved stability in addition to assist with joint and muscle ache, Dr. Behm stated.
However relatively than specializing in whether or not or to not stretch, Dr. Smith stated, it’s essential to take a look at the larger image of bodily health, “which is that being sturdy, having good stability, having good coordination” are all essential objectives to attempt for with varied sorts of train. Stretching might be part of that, but when it doesn’t slot in together with your schedule or objectives, you don’t need to drive it.