Fact or Myth? You should always stretch before exercise.
This is a MYTH.
For decades, joggers and fitness buffs have diligently stretched before beginning their workouts.
However, experts now say that stretching does little to improve your performance or reduce your odds of injury. What’s more, it may actually make your muscles weaker, tighter, and more prone to strains and tears.
Static stretching — holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — is just about the worst way to prepare for your workout.
Malachy McHugh, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, shared this startling truth with the New York Times:
“There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching,” McHugh said. “The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.”
Instead of static stretching, experts currently recommend some mix of the following options:
• Jog lightly.
• Do a sports-specific warm up, like kicking for football or a hitting a few tennis serves.
• Try some dynamic stretches, like lunges, that send “excitatory messages” to muscles and activate the joints and tissue needed for the task ahead.
The one thing we know for certain about the payoffs or pitfalls of any warm-up routine is that we need more research.
Andrea J. Fradkin, an exercise researcher at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, said that basically it’s not known whether warming up is of benefit, of potential harm, or has no effect on an individual’s performance.”
So for now, avoid static stretching before exercise. And remember, if one warm up approach fails, try, try again.