Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doubts with Answers regarding stretching before exercising

Short video tutorial on top Stretching exercises.

Question: A lot of people say that it is not wise to stretch before exercising and it should succeed it but some people say that dynamic stretching should be a part of warm up, so what is your idea on that?

Answer: You should never stretch before weight training. It will reduce the contractile power of your lift, and cause losses in stability, which can lead to injury. People who advocate dynamic stretching are probably referring to activities like baseball... where you warm up by pitching the ball back and forth to your teammates sever times, or a sports like martial arts, where dynamic stretching can prime the muscles, getting them ready for use. In this case, dynamic stretching is good... but NOT before weight training!

Question: Should we stretch between sets or should we just sit and rest?

Answer: Neither. The idea of stretching between sets is that you're clearing the muscles of lactic acid when you stretch. Imagine the stretching of your biceps or chest to be akin to "ringing out a towel" that's soaked with water. However, doing this presents the same problems as above - reduced contractile power and loss of stability. Depending on your program, this may not be such a big deal, but there IS a better way.

Between sets, do a mildly aerobic activity. Find a path through the gym between the machines, and walk up and down it rather fast. Doing this clears out more lactic acid, and brings in more oxygenated blood to muscle you're training. DO NOT EVER just lay or sit there and do nothing!! This is the worst possible form of rest.

Also, the difference between activities must be taken into account. It would be more stressful to go from a fully rested position, to suddenly running as fast as you can, rather than going from a slow jog to running as fast as you can. Similarly, its more stressful on the body to go from running fast to fully resting. It is better to go from a fast run to a slow jog, THEN to a full rest. That is another reason, its not good to just sit and do nothing between sets.

Question: I read somewhere that it is good to stretch before running and jogging?

Answer: Complete nonsense. Unless by "running" you mean an all-out-fast-as-you-possibly-can sprint, then no. You do not need to warm up. Jogging IS a warm up. How would you warm up before you warm up? Senseless.

Question: Does jerking while doing stretches cause injuries?

Answer: Yes. So does bouncing at the end of the stretch. Gently rocking back and forth, "pulsating" is okay, but no further.

Question: Can warm up and cool down be done activity specific rather than doing the same stretches over and over again

Answer: They should be done specific to your activity, and not with stretches. Stretches are an incredibly lousy way to warm up. If I'm doing a heavy set of bench presses, I'll warm up by starting out with a very light weight and press 20 times or so. Then I'll add some weight and do 10 or 12 reps. Then I'll add more weigh and do 5 or 6 reps. Then I'll add weight and do my heavy set of 3 or 4 reps.

Question: Here is what I prefer to do

Answer: Unless you have ROM issues, you can take out the full body stretch stuff.

1) You only need to stretch those areas if you lack ROM and need to improve on this. For running, most people are fine, flexibility-wise.

2) Your stretching will simply be more effective AFTER your run than before! So even if you were tight and did need it, you'd do better after a jog rather than before.

You only need ROM stretching if you are tight in a certain area. I've almost never stretched at all, not for ROM or for anything else - and I'm not tight. I'm simply not. Some people are naturally flexible. I doubt Jim Carry practices yoga to be able to move like a man-without-bones as he sometimes does in his comedy routines. He's just naturally that way. Some people are naturally stiff as a board, and NEED stretching.

Second, a certain level of tightness for some sports is a GOOD thing! Tightness can help reverse the motion of the legs in a sprint, whereas excessive flexibility can lower performance. The same is true in power lifting - certain tightness helps stability. Now I'm not saying you need to be overly tight. But if you can perform the normal ROM required for your sport, and most people can, then I cant see why you would need stretching.

If and when tightness starts to become an issue, then you attack it early on with stretching. But its not like you have to do it every day, every workout, or even every week. Just use it when you need it.

Now here's a little jewel about stretching that you may have never considered.

We know that stretching reduces contractile ability.

We also know that in a bench press, your upper back contracts statically, which is the antagonist of the prime movers. This cancels out some of the prime mover's ability to lift the weight. If the chest is lifting at 100%, and the upper back is contracted statically, it can have a pull of about 5%... which reduces our maximum bench to only 95% or so of its max.

So, by stretching the lats and upper back real good before you do your bench presses, you can actually increase your bench... because you've weakened the antagonist!

Another neat little trick - Get under the bench press bar, and grab it where you normally would. Then pull yourself off the bench and contract your upper back statically as hard as possible for 5 to 10 seconds. Bring your shoulder blades together as hard as you can. Now get in position, arch your lower back, and try benching. If you did this after you stretched your upper back, the antagonist will be even weaker, and the nervous system will be better primed to allow a heavier lift.

Here are some more links specific to this topic:


2. Stretching after or between exercise -- not before -- cuts injury risk
3. Does stretching before exercise prevent injury?


Raj Soni

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