Don't weaken muscles by stretching before exercising

Armen Hareyan's picture

Did you know that warming up and stretching before exercising and sports events weakens the muscles of the athletes? Aerobic short warm up is more recommended for that purpose.

This NY Times article has summarized the latest physiology research on warm-ups: the age-old practice of static stretching (stretch & hold) before exercising actually does more harm than good. Studies show that static stretching can weaken your pre-workout muscles by up to 30%.

Instead of stretching and warming up before exercising, athletes should do a short aerobic warm up, followed by dynamic stretching, which basically involves doing similar motions that will be involved in your actual work out. For running, do some squats and lunges, for example.

The embedded video on that page is worth watching. In it, manager of sports science for the U.S. Tennis Association Mark Kovacs says that the most important part of the warm up is - surprise - warming up, i.e. getting blood flowing to your muscles by doing a light jog, for example. After that, dynamic movement will further help your muscles warm up and get ready for action. It is also mentioned that static stretching is a good thing to do for cooling down. Damn, I too often skip that part.

An example of dynamic motion that makes for a good warm up is The Spiderman, which involves crawlng on hands & feet, bringing your foot up beside your hand while leaving the other way behind, sort of like a crouching lunge. Thankfully, Duke University’s Sports Medicine people have posted the above helpful video on YouTube about stretching and warming up before exercising.

Reported by Brent Kearney.

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