Stretching muscles is optimum for muscle recover and to keep you injury free. But a new study suggests that static stretching which involves holding a position for at least 15 seconds could be harmful. I have always told my clients to warm-up their body with some light cardiovascular activity prior to stretching. This is so you do not stretch a cold muscle. The study reiterates this by saying that you are sending your muscles a cue to contract than relax which is the complete opposite of what you need prior to your run, bike ride, hike, etc.
The study was conducted by a team at the University of Sydney and touches upon the possibility that more “pliable” muscles could put you at more risk for strains and potentially cause tiny tears in muscle fibers. The primary focus on the study however, had to do with stretching beforehand and whether or not it made a difference in muscle soreness. The subjects of the study were young healthy adults and not people who were older or suffered from chronic injuries.
There are two main categories of stretching, one is static stretching where you hold a particular stretch or position to its farthest extension without movement. The other type of stretching is referred to as dynamic stretching, which involves moving your body as you increase your reach and extension. This is the type of stretching I typically do at the beginning of my aerobics classes. An example would be a controlled, rhythmic and repetitive leg reach or arm circle that extends to your full range of motion and mobility.
Experts feel that it would be more beneficial for leisure athletes to warm-up rather than stretch. I half agree and will still recommend that my clients stretch, but only after they warm-up first. It is especially true if you’re about to go for a run in cold weather that you both warm-up and then stretch. A warm-up prepares your body both physically and mentally for your workout. A warm-up is also important to increase your body temperature, especially in cooler climates, as well as prepare the joints, muscles and connective tissues for the intense portion of your workout.