By Steven Cole
The idea of stretching to warm up before exercising is a well-ingrained notion in the minds of the general population. We are introduced to this concept at a very young age when we take our first physical education class or when we join our first competitive sports team.
Could it be that our longtime understanding of pre-exercise stretching may be wrong? This is of concern to us at Hillsides, where we continually implement the latest techniques proven to be the most beneficial for our children during physical activity.
A growing body of research in the field of exercise science is showing that pre-exercise static stretching (holding a steady stretch for around 30-90 seconds) does not help prevent injuries and may even be detrimental to physical performance. For example, a study recently published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, revealed that men who passively stretched before a squat exercise reported a decrease in strength. Researchers concluded that static stretching should be avoided before training.
The general argument against static stretching is that this elongates and relaxes a muscle, making it less responsive and more prone to injury. An example of a static stretch is the toe-touch, where an individual stands with feet shoulder-width apart and bends at the waist, extending the arms toward the ground, keeping the knees straight, fully extended.
Through much research, experts are becoming advocates of dynamic stretching as a more effective way of warming up. Dynamic stretching lasts for one to two minutes and focuses on performing active movements, targeting the muscles that will be used for the actual exercise following the warm-up. These movements have been shown to decrease the risk of injury and even enhance physical performance. An example of a dynamic stretch is the frog leap, where an individual starts in a squat position and leaps vertically, repeating the motion over a short distance of about 15-20 yards.
Although static stretching seems to be a subpar warm up, it is still considered a great way to end an exercise regimen as it promotes flexibility and soothes muscles while cooling them down. So, as we tell the children at Hillsides, feel free to stretch at the end of your workout.
Group Rehab Specialist Steven Cole brings his passion and knowledge of kinesthetics, music, art and videography to the Hillsides community.