Warm-up before stretching

flexibility and stretching

This post is a follow up post to my post earlier this week on the importance of stretching and flexibility training. I originally wrote this post on Tuesday night and it was a beauty. It was supposed to have been posted yesterday, but because of an Internet crash I lost the whole thing. So take two.

We talked about how important flexibility training was, but any stretching should never be completed before a proper warm-up.

It is well known that a warm-up is something you should do before any stretching or exercise program. I should also point out that warm-up and stretching are not the same thing. A warm-up is an activity that raises the temperature of your body and your muscles and prepares you for vigorous exercising. A proper warm-up is important before any stretching or exercising to prevent injuries.

Types of warm-up
There are three types of warm-ups

  • Passive warm-up involves methods such as hot showers, a massage or heating pads. Research has shown that a passive warm-up can have positive effects, but usually this method is not practical in use.
  • General warm-up involves basic activities that require movement of major muscles groups like running, cycling, rowing and jumping rope.
  • Specific warm-up includes movements that are an actual part of the activity such as a slow jog before a run or lighter deadlifts before a deadlift workout.

Most days when I workout I concentrate on a proper warm-up to include both general warm-ups followed by some specific warm-ups. This has given me the best results when working out and for flexibility training. You should break a small sweat in a warm-up, that means your body and muscle temperatures are increasing and injury risk will be lowered.

Now that you have performed a proper warm-up, let’s move on and talk about flexibility training and stretching.

Types of flexibility training

The most important thing about any flexibility training program is to make sure you perform the stretch properly. If you do not perform the warm-up exercises properly you can injure yourself badly.

Ballistic stretching is a rapid, jerky, uncontrolled movement like bouncing. During ballistic stretching the body part is put into motion and momentum takes it through the range of motion until the muscles are stretched to the limits. Ballistic stretching should be done after working with a professional as the risk of injury increases from exceeding the limits of the tissue being stretched.

Static stretching is the most common method of increasing flexibility. Static stretching is a slow constant speed during stretching. You generally hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds. Research has shown holding a stretch over 30 seconds adds very little, if any, benefit. Recent research has shown static stretching taking place before a dynamic activity like running or jumping may have a negative effect on performance.

Dynamic stretching should be performed before taking place in dynamic activities. A proper warm-up before running will include some dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is similar to ballistic stretching in that both allow faster movements to occur during training, but dynamic avoids bouncing and includes movements specific to a sport or movement such as lunges.

Some other stretching and flexibility tools I wrote about in the original post that was lost includes stretching with stability balls, foam rollers and bands. Instead of adding those topics back into this post, I have decided to dedicate a post specifically to them at a later date.

Stretching should only occur after a warm-up or post-workout to help lower the risk of injury to muscles or tissue.


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Flexibility – Do not forget to stretch to see your toes

stretching for flexibility

Stretch for flexibility - It really is important

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion of a joint or a series of joints, or in more plain English the ability of a joint to move freely through the full normal range of motion. This is the first in a 2-part series on flexibility and stretching.

Flexibility training is, or should be, an important aspect of your overall exercise program.

All physical exercise activities should have a warm-up before you perform the exercise. When it comes to stretching, not all flexibility training needs to be done before you exercise.

If you are taking place in a dynamic activity such as basketball, running or racquetball after the warm-up, then you should do some flexibility training before your activity. If you are participating in a less dynamic activity such as using a stationary bike, then flexibility training can take place after your session. Notice though, in either case flexibility training or stretching is part of both programs.

Increasing flexibility helps eliminate inefficient movement by allowing the joints to move freely through their full range of motion. This is very important when you are trying to decrease the likelihood of injuries. You may not think about flexibility often, but it is something that effects not only your exercising and workouts, but your everyday life. Simple things like cleaning the yard or picking up kids’ toys off the floor can all be improved with flexibility training.

So why do we get less flexible when we get older? It has more than just age. There is a good chance when you were younger you were more active. A decrease in your activity level causes connective tissue to become less pliable when it is not used for full range of motion. When your body fat percentage increases there is a decrease in the pliability of connective tissue, and fat deposits form around joints which also limits the range of motion.

Resistance training can have a positive effect on your flexibility. Be warned though, when you are lifting heavy loads and not performing the exercise with a proper full range of motion, your flexibility can be hampered and actually get worse. When you hear about those who are muscle bound and not at all flexible, it is not because of the size of their muscles, it is because they used improper training methods.

For those who are not looking to become muscle bound, but rather just get back in shape, resistance training is still the best exercise possible, but the way you train can hinder your flexibility. A limiting factor with resistance is the equipment, most noticeably weight machines. Machines are pure evil as Steve Kamb explains here. Machines do not allow for a natural full range of motion which is why free weights and body weight exercises are a much better option than weight machines.

When you work on both strength training and flexibility training it will allow you to have much better control over your muscles and your movements which will allow you to perform strength exercises better.

If you are a coach of a youth team or club I highly recommend you show great interest in your team’s stretching activities. When it comes time to do stretching, spend as much time coaching them here as you do during the practice. Showing interest will help stress to them how important flexibility and stretching is. If you were to be involved in the practice or workout, but not the stretching, this would send a message that it is not as important.

Tomorrow we will discuss part two of flexibility, and I will cover warming up and different flexibility training exercises.


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