To stretch or Not to stretch, That is The Question!?

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I am really stiff and feel super tight! I should probably stretch more often or go to yoga or something right?!.. The all too common question that I get on a daily basis. And the all too common answer that I give is: “IT DEPENDS!” Because honestly, it does, just depend.

After some studies showed that static and prolonged stretching may cause the nervous system to temporarily weaken the stretched muscle, many athletes and sports programs have eliminated it from their warm-up routines. However, little research has actually examined the performance effects of “dynamic stretching,” in which the limbs and joints stay in motion as you stretch.

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A new study, which was published in June in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a group of international scientists, many of whom work with elite, national-team athletes, decided to test different stretching routines.

Essentially what they found was that the group of athletes they tested had no change in performance whatsoever no matter what their warm-up had been. While this is only one study, what it provides testament to is exactly what I have been proclaiming… “IT DEPENDS”

In practical terms, these findings suggest that if you enjoy and trust stretching before a competition or workout, you may as well keep stretching, whether that is dynamic, static, or a combo of both. Some of the subjects of the study reported “feeling more prepared for competition when the stretching was included.” Thus, a psychological factor could also be at play, and a placebo is real people!

So, what does this really mean for you? It means, if you feel better, you will then move better, which will allow you to get better and perform better! So, feeling stiff after sitting on your butt working all day (which c’mon people, read my blog and STOP doing that!.. Myth of the Ergonomic Workplace ) before you head out to run, you better do something to get yourself “warmed-up.” Personally and professionally as a practicing Physiotherapist, I believe in the theory of dynamic warm-ups prior to the activity and static/prolonged stretching post-workout. It gets your blood flowing, heart rate up, and allows your neuromuscular system to prime itself for the task at hand. With that said, there are days I need to just lay down, unwind, calm down and maybe hang out doing a hand to toe stretch to allow my nervous system to down-regulate and de-stress before “feeling” ready to go for my run or bike ride.

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Dr. Kevin Capata
PT, DPT, CSCS

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