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Should you stretch before exercise?

[&:]Following a recent conversation with a sports scientist colleague I am seeking the opinion of others.

Their opinion was that if you perform static stretching exercises prior to a workout you can actually reduce your power output from those muscles. So, for example, if i was to perform a load of shoulder/arm/back stretches prior to swimming I would actually reduce my muscles ability to pull stronger during the swim stroke. This is because you strectch the muscle and it loses some of its elasticty and some of its contracting ability (or something like that. I am no scientist!)

Opinion would seem to be split amongst the experts. I think it is universally accepted that you should warm up, but do we stretch muscles or not? Any thoughts!

I have always been taught to warm and stretch as it helps to reduce injury.[:)]


  • Well, the sports scientist has made a correct statement, and one which gels with the BTA official stance on stretching (having just completed a Level 1 coaching course, myself), when he or she says that static stretching can negatively impact on a muscle's performance before activity. However, it must be swiftly followed by saying that dynamic stretching is highly recommended (and, in BTA coaching courses, a required part of every session plan).

    But, make no mistake, stretching before and after a work-out is a good thing, which both science and personal experience will bear out.

    So, the distinction is between static and dynamic stretching. From the definition we were given on the course, static stretches are ones which last for more than 20 seconds, so think slow yoga classes or something where you hold a deep, long stretch for what would feel like a long time when you are stretching. Dynamic stretches are ones which last for a shorter duration (like, well, a "normal", sort of non-yoga stretch that doesn't feel like it lasts a super-long time, maybe 5-10 seconds).

    It's also important to remember that, to get optimal benefit from stretching and warming up, the first step is actually some light movement (light jogging for five minutes if you are warming up for a run), then some mobility exercise (swinging the legs back and forth while standing still, forwards and backwards then side-to-side, maybe rotating the ankles, knees and hips) and THEN some dynamic stretching (calves, quads, lower back, upper back). Because you want to elevate the heart rate slightly first, then increase blood flow to the specific muscle groups you are about to work, then stretch the muscles in a dynamic way.
  • GraemeGraeme Posts: 48
    sorry to add to the questions, but do longer stretches have thier place in training - ie after a long run or ride, and after a warm down ?

    I normaly do long stretches after a run, but only because that's what I've always considered best. If it's hampering my muscle development, I'll stop

  • I think it is stretching prior to a exercise/race that the sports scientist was getting at. Static stretching is important as it helps with flexibilty etc.
  • Yes, the received wisdom is that static (or longer duration) stretches are most appropriate after a work-out, while dynamic (or shorter duration) stretches are most appropriate before a work-out. Inded, I have just read one definition of static stretching as being "a stretch that lasts longer than 8 seconds in duration". So, I guess a dynamic stretch really is a short duration.
  • During my PTI training, I was instructed to warm up for 7 minutes and stretch for 3 minutes, holding each stretch for 10 seconds. After exercise, warm down for 3 minutes and stretch for 7 minutes, holding each stretch for 25-30 seconds.
  • MikeyBMikeyB Posts: 135
    Like everything, the view on streching seems to have changed over the years. I always used to spend time streching before training etc. The current view is that it is better to warm up with dynamic movements - walking lunges, knee lifts that type of thing rather than static streches, look for stuff on SAQ for example exercises.

    Thats certainly the point of view from the rugby world anyway and I guess the principles translate into the triathlon world.

  • That's certainly the way I see it (from what I have read recently) that a good progressive warm up with some fast bursts (depending on the event) is the current thinking.


  • I have done a lot of running and fiddled around with pre- & post-warm-up/down.

    I never stretch without first a light warm-up jog of a few minutes. If I am in a race I will do plenty of stretches, probably more than 8 seconds each. If I am just going on a training run I would perhaps not do any stretches.

    Post-exercise whether a race or a training run I ALWAYS warm-down. To me it makes a massive difference. I guess you call them static stetches, I hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Remember to take a warm-down jog for a few minutes after stretching/runnning to rid the bloodstream of the lactic acid, and to aid muscle recovery.

  • pcoopspcoops Posts: 2
    if you were in a room and someone opend the door and let a tiger in would you ask it to wait whilst you done a warm up/stretch before it went for you?

    I think the best way as what i do is: if ive been active just prior to my trg session (walking,lifting,carrying ect) then i wouldnt do any stretches. But if ive been sat watchin tv or on computer or driving then i would build hr up slowly then do a light stretch then trg session, as your body was in more of a shut down if not needed mode.
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Personally I don't stretch, but used to quite extensively and am now very flexible (can put my legs behind my head just like....). Now I don't and just get stuck into it but I think that all the stretching along with daily training have kept me supple.
  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    Having watched some British Military Training in our local park, if that is typical of PTI training then there is a little time lag between what is scientific theory & application & what happens 'on the ground'..having said that..& I don't mean to insult anyone here, so does there seem to be a similar gap in premiership football training so..moving on...dynamic stretching ..the clue is in the name..it is not simply a stretch shortened (?), but a stretch put into a moving context, you 'rehearse' the movement or movements that you are likely to perform in the chosen sport, hence a run warm up would be as stated, lunges, strides, arm movemnts mimicing those performed whilst running etc, all done sequevtially & in a controlled manner speeding up over their duration.
  • BlinkybazBlinkybaz Posts: 1,144
    In my opinion stretching is vital. Before I understood the need for it I pulled muscles all the time especailly in my legs. A stretching routine must be part of everyones pre training/race warm up.

    If i am wrong I am willing to chanke but?
  • MikeyBMikeyB Posts: 135
    If you are pulling muscles all the time then you need to warm-up properly. The question was in regard to stretching and I think most of us have taken that to mean the normal, static, hold for 30 seconds type stretching. Personally, that has no place in my warm-up anymore. I do include progressive dynamic stretching as previously stated and find that it what works best for me.

    I do, of course, also have a stretching routine, based on static stretches, that I use when warming down and to improve flexibility. But do not see any place for these type of stretches in a warm-up.

  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Okay so if I stretch after a long run and then jump into an ice bath wouldn't the muscular contractions from the ice bath negate any effect or benefit from stretching,some reports have said that for long runs, due to the micro tears in the muscular skeleton ,stretching after the run would have a detrimental affect.

    As to the original question I'll sit on the fence.
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