I will never cease to be amazed by how some people can get a hold of a piece of research and from it, launch half-baked, even dangerous conclusions. Recently researchers determined that if a muscle was placed in a stretch and for held for > 30 seconds, that muscle would not be able to fire with the same power as a muscle that had not been similarly stretched. From this, some concluded that you should not stretch before you work out. Eager to be ahead of the curve with the next great exercise concept this was republished in health magazines and blindly adopted by many trainers in gyms. To make matters worse they advised that, instead people should begin their work out, by moving the joints of each region with rapid movements that take it to the end of normal range of motion. This new approach is called Dynamic Stretching and while sound in principle, has flaws in how it is being applied.
This research showing power lost after performing a long static stretch is for only a brief period of time. The application of this research would apply to a power lifter, a sprinter or any other activity where you need a burst of power from a muscle during a single event. It has little or no application to the average person working out in a gym.
If you consistently fail to stretch before working out, it is just a matter of time before you hurt yourself. Proper stretching brings blood to the muscles. Done slowly and gently this increased blood flow literally warms up the muscles and increases the elasticity of the muscles and tendons. With the soft tissues more pliable, less strain is placed on them when you do start to push them during a workout and you reduce your chances of tearing them.
What to do? Do take time to stretch before you begin your work out. Start out with gentle stretching and build. Hold each stretch to strain not pain for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat each stretch 3 times. Once you have stretched, the muscles gradually build the pace or resistance of the exercise you are performing that day.
Have questions? Good! Let me know. You can email them to me or call the office.