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When Should You Stretch and How?

Jul 23, 2013

I can remember my sports career all the way back to when I was 8 years old. Every single practice started out with stretching then calisthenics. We would stretch our legs, back, and arms then proceed to do some up-downs, push-ups, and chanting jumping jacks. The same thing happened in junior high school, and then again in high school. Given most types of sports are, where you have a short burst of energy, stretching before can be not optimal. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that stretching before lifting weights (a similar activity to sports) showed a decrease output in power, strength, and stability. Not everyone is a athlete, though. If you are reading this, chances are you train with one of us at Fitness Together, and/or do some form of cardio on your own. Quite a few of our clients participate in sports for fun or moderately competitive. Think about what you do when you get here? Maybe some foam rolling, then toss the ball around, and do some jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. That is called a dynamic warm-up. That style of a warm-up is more suited to the type of activity you are about to begin. The purpose of this is to give you some ideas of warm-ups you can do on your own, when not at FT. It is ok to do static stretching before a long distance event such as a 5k run, or a distance bike ride. Your endurance type activities are more suitable for pre-activity stretching. Sports like hockey, tennis, flag football, baseball, softball and basketball should have a more dynamic warm-up associated with the pre-activity phase. Below are some examples of those sports and some moves you can do to prepare for them.

Hockey-Split squat or lunges and upper torso rotations

Tennis- Upper torso rotations and lateral bounds (jumps)

Flag football- High knee jogs, hip and upper torso rotational activities, and possibly throwing motions

Baseball/Softball- Throwing motions, upper torso rotations

Basketball-Vertical jumps, chest passes, side shuffles

Now let’s talk post workout stretching. For me personally, I stretch after a workout with the goal of relief from soreness the following day. You may not feel immediate results that day and time. According to an article on WebMD, the most beneficial time to stretch is after a workout, after your muscles are primed and loosened up from the activity. So unless you are doing a distance event, move that stretch to after your workout, and reap the rewards!

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