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Should you stretch before or after you exercise?


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I have just joined a fitness club and the trainer told me not to stretch before you workout because your muscles are cold and you could pull them...so I stretched afterwards.  What is the right way?

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depends on the workout. generally, stretching cold muscles is a bad idea. you want to warm up before you stretch. if you're doing cardio indoors or in a moderate climate, the exercise is the warm-up. if you're running outdoors in cooler weather, walking briskly for 10 or 15 minutes is enough of a warm-up. if you're going from cold to heavy lifting - well, someone who lifts will have to help you with that. but i'd guess that 10 minutes on the treadmill first wouldn't be a bad idea.

most conventional exercise shortens and tightens muscles, so stretching afterwards averts soreness later. but one caveat: stretching immediately after cardio can be problematic, because there's a tendency to be overzealous with the adrenaline and "high" of the workout. for some people, it's best to wait 20 minutes or so (i usually forget).

Generally, stretching cold is a terribad idea - though I've been told that some schools of thought in flexibility training start cold and do gentle stretching as a warmup to the harder stuff. Since I've never had extreme flexibility as a primary goal I haven't looked into that in more detail tho'.

 Ten minutes on the treadmill would help get blood flow up and prep you for movement, but I think a more exercise-specific warmup serves you better -warmups for strength training should be more about mobility drills and moving through the range of motion you're going to be using when lifting. I like starting with this mobility complex for most workouts since it takes care of everything, gets you real warm when done correctly, and helps you move better by providing some much-needed mobility in muscles that are frequently tight in both athletes and chair pilots. 

 Plus it takes about 3-4 minutes when done correctly ;)

It's probably not a good warm-up for endurance training but I think the mobility part of it could be useful for everyone - for running and general cardio these drills are probably more suitable.

The Female Body Breakthrough book has the warm up all spelled out.  It consists of some bw squats, jumping jacks, walking lunges, inchworms, one legged jumps It gets my heart rate going and then I start the lifting. After the lifting I do the foam rolling and stretching.

 

I like to be able to touch my toes and ensure I have given some stretch to my piriformis and hip flexors (due to sitting on my ass every day).  I do this after I have done some jump rope warm up.

But here is some discussion on the benefits of stretching from some well known S&C coaches:

http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/38- articles/59-the-stretching-roundtable-1.html

And at the same site is De Franco's "Agile 8" which weekend warriors I know do regularly and swear by.

My daughter takes ballet classes three hours each week on a professional level, and they always-always stretch before doing anything else. If they do not stretch before technique, they could get seriously hurt. However, my trainer also suggests to stretch after working out and just do a 10 minute warm up before working out. It seems to work for me, I am never sore after gym.

Both. You want to stretch before so you don't pull any muscles, and you want to stretch after so your body can cool down.

Original Post by volleyballqueen:

Both. You want to stretch before so you don't pull any muscles, and you want to stretch after so your body can cool down.

I think stretching before is more of a personal preference, or it depends on what kind of activity you're doing. I recall reading in a long-distance runner magazine how they did some looking into stretching, and stretching before really didn't do anything to prevent injury. And I don't bother to stretch before lifting weights either, just a warm up, as per what works great for me and what I've had recommended by quite knowledgeable people.

Original Post by ddeuter:

I have just joined a fitness club and the trainer told me not to stretch before you workout because your muscles are cold and you could pull them.

Your body's temperature is almost 100 degrees.  I would say that's pretty darn warm!

It's not essential to "warm up" muscles before stretching, provided that you ease into the stretch slowly, and don't push too hard.  All other mammals stretch any time they feel the need - and they don't do 10 minutes on the treadmill first.  Wink

With that said, static stretching does relax muscles, which generally isn't a desirable thing before exercise.  The exception is if you have a tight muscle somewhere that will negatively affect your movement.  This is actually common, however it's very difficult to diagnose yourself.  Ideally it's best to get a movement assessment by a physical therapist or highly qualified personal trainer.  They will prescribe a customized series of stretches based on the muscle imbalances they find.  You could certainly try assessing yourself, by video recording yourself doing the overhead squat assessment.  But if you're unsure of the results, seek the help of a pro.  Don't stretch indiscriminately before exercise.

Ideally you would stretch your tight muscles multiple times throughout the day, eliminating or reducing the need to stretch before exercise. 

Original Post by cherimoose:

Your body's temperature is almost 100 degrees.  I would say that's pretty darn warm!

It's not essential to "warm up" muscles before stretching, provided that you ease into the stretch slowly, and don't push too hard.  All other mammals stretch any time they feel the need - and they don't do 10 minutes on the treadmill first.  

I believe "cold" and "warm" as terms refer more to blood flowing through your body, into your muscles, extremities, etc. But I'm guessing you already knew that an are just being facetious, because I can't imagine you're also implying "warming up" isn't a smart idea before exercise. The last thing I'm going to do is go squat 140 kilos first thing after sitting or even standing at work all day, just like I won't walk outside from work and start exploding into 40 meter or 100 meter sprints.

Other mammals also don't spend hours in front of the tv or computer screen. And when people refer to stretching, its usually a bit more straining that just bending here and there. I think context is sort of important here.

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