Stretching and why you’re probably doing it wrong

Updated: Sep 22, 2019

First off static stretching is not a warm up, so if you are using it as one please stop it now as you’re so far behind the modern way of thinking. It’s serving no use and is probably doing more harm than good. Over the last few years the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have done research on this topic and concluded that static stretching before exercise does not increase athletic performance and in some cases actually decreases performance. A warm up should be exactly that a warm up; the clue is in the name. It should be energetic enough to build up a slight sweat and raise the heart rate to roughly 60-65% of the heart rate reserve. This then should be followed by a few minutes of dynamic stretches.


Stretching Guidelines

Stretching is a type of flexibility exercise. There are 2 major and common types of stretching: dynamic and static. Both are different in nature and should be performed at different times.


Dynamic

Also known as mobility drills should be performed before you begin exercising. Dynamic stretching involves a gradual transition from one body position to another and involves progressive increase in reach and range of motion as the movement is repeated several times. Stretching by moving through your range of motion raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your muscles which allows them to properly warm up and decreases your muscle stiffness. This helps prep your muscle so they are ready to perform for your workout. Some examples of dynamic stretching include leg swings, torso twists and arm circles.


Static

Should be performed after exercising or can be perform alone on its own. Static stretching involves slowly moving a muscle to the end of its range of motion and then holding the position for a period of time. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. For older individuals, holding a stretch for 30 to 60 seconds is recommended for the greatest benefits. You should stretch the muscle enough to feel a light to moderate discomfort, but don’t go too far where you start to feel pain. Listen to your body. Some examples of static stretching include calf stretch, sitting hamstring stretch and shoulder stretch.


Stretching/flexibility recommendations

Incorporate stretching exercises into your workouts 2 to 3 days a week, but daily stretching is most effective.

· Your flexibility exercises should target each of the major muscle-tendon groups:

o Shoulder

o Chest

o Trunk/back

o Hips Quads/Hamstrings

· Perform dynamic stretching before working out

· Perform static stretching or dynamic stretching after working out

· Stretch to a point of feeling tightness or light to moderate discomfort, depending on your fitness level

· Do not bounce while stretching, this can cause injuries. It is best to hold the stretch in one position or to slowly move it through its range of motion

· Add in foam rolling at the end of your workout to help improve flexibility



Reference: ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercising Testing and Prescription, Ninth Edition

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