Stretching the Truth

February 24, 2012

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During the past few years, there has been some controversy regarding the benefits we gain from stretching before and after exercise. Luckily, Laura Schwecher, a writer for the Huffington Post uses her findings from scientific based evidence to bust some of the famous myths that surround gyms and other fitness centers around the nation. So, the jury is out and if you’re anything like myself, prepare to be shocked by some of these new findings.

Firstly, stretching doesn’t prevent injury nor does it eliminate soreness. Injury is due to a combination of factors, including poor technique, muscle imbalances, and not warming up properly. Although it is a good idea to stretch before and after a workout, there is no evidence to suggest that it will decrease your risk of injury. Also, when our muscles feel sore after a tough work out, it’s actually due to microscopic tears in our muscles and stretching does not prevent these. However, some researchers do suggest elevating your legs within twenty minutes of a workout to prevent lactic acid build up which can lead to an increase of soreness.

Although stretching may not prevent injury or onset soreness, there are many positive characteristics of a good old-fashioned hamstring stretch. Regardless if you work out every day or just a few times a week, stretching should be done everyday. Consistent stretching is key to increasing flexibility, range of motion, and potentially reducing the risk of muscle strain. Also, many people are under the impression that a quick jog will suffice as a warm up however, in reality, it just isn’t enough. Along with an exercise to elevate your heart rate, dynamic stretching such as lunges, butt kicks, and power skips, should be performed to loosed the body up and prepare it for a safe and effective workout. In addition to a pre-workout stretch, it is just as important to finish your exercise with static stretching. Static stretching is different from dynamic stretching as it involves reaching forward to a point of tension and holding the stretch. Looking for pictures on how to stretch? This website is a great website that shows different types of stretching from this technique.

Stretching has been linked with many benefits such as increased flexibility and personally, I feel much better after doing it. My body feels lose and although it may not eliminate soreness completely, it definitely helps. So, before you catch yourself thinking “I’m already flexible, so I don’t need to stretch” or “I just don’t feel like doing it today”, think again. In the long run, a good stretch may minimize those pesky pains in your muscles you feel the next day. 

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