To stretch or not to stretch? That is the question

Is there a need to bend and stretch and put the body under an increasing workload just because we have been told you must stretch before and after exercise? Well according to most, yes you do. But diving further into debate about this issue only seems to uncover little knowledge from people about the harm or good it is actually doing or the benefits it has on the body.

No doubt we have all participated in an exercise class which has included a stretching section as part of the program and upon looking around the room found that some participants aren’t doing the stretch right, some stretches may be too difficult and let’s face it you may not even feel the stretch at all.
In saying that, to tell people not to stretch at all would be seen as inappropriate. However, there must be the realisation that every individual has different needs and stretching requirements may need to be included or may be asked for in some peoples exercise program.

As a trainer I use more dynamic routines (jogging variations, squats, lunges, push – ups etc) to warm up my clients as these types of movements get the blood flowing and helps prepare the entire body for exercise, especially the major joints of the body. I then offer up some light stretching at the completion of the exercise session, often it leaves my clients feeling relaxed and calm, having that sense of total health and fitness.

Although new research reports that stretching may not be as beneficial as once thought, there is still a strong case for including such methods into a regular exercise regime. The question here isn’t whether to stretch or not, but considering the type of stretches that should be done. For instance such arguments indicate that static stretching (holding a muscle at a certain length for a period of time) followed by high levels of intense exercise may cause injury or limit performance. However, as I highlighted earlier in the topic, performing dynamic stretching such as functional movements has been shown to improve range of motion and in fact increase performance output.

People stretch for a wide range of reasons, whether they believe it will reduce injury, gives them greater flexibility and mobility in their workout routine, it’s just used as part of their routine, or they have simply just been told it will help them and their performance or help them recover. The truth is, that overall there is no convincing evidence that stretching is good for any of those things, with many studies conducted actually concluding that stretching produced either little or no reduction in factors such as injury and soreness.

As a trainer who prides myself on prescribing safe methods of practice and displaying proper technique to my clients, I always explain that after some sessions the body will pull up sore and stiff in certain areas, especially when performing exercises that are new or that the body isn’t used to so stretching probably won’t help that much.

Where do I stand on stretching? Well, I could spend a large amount of time showing you stretches that may or may not work, or use up your valuable time and money ensuring you get the full benefit from the session.

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