Question: Should I stretch before a workout?
Yes, but not in the way you probably think! Let’s look at the goals of stretching before a workout- to warm up the muscles and to prevent injury.
To warm up the muscles we need to increase blood flow, which comes from movement. While stretching is technically moving, there are far more effective options, such as walking. A five-minute walk or light cardiovascular exercise (jogging, biking, elliptical) will warm up your muscles much more than stretching will.
Does stretching prevent injury?
Laursen, et al in 2014 found strength training and proprioception (balance) training both decreased risk of injury but stretching did not have any effect on injury risk. Swing and a miss there. The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials – PubMed (nih.gov)
Is there any benefit to stretching?
Yes, yes there is! We do not need to stretch all our muscles, but if we have limited range of motion, then we should be stretching those involved muscles. A few movements we should be able to do- look up, down, left, right. When we raise our hand, our arm should be in line with our ear. While sitting with our feet in front and legs straight, we should be able to touch our toes.
When we do not have proper mobility, our body will compensate; this can cause overuse or long-term injuries. So, while stretching does not reduce injury risk for your workout, it is still beneficial to our bodies.
- 5-10 minutes of light cardio
- Targeted stretching for flexibility deficit
Alex Strahle, PT, DPT, CSCS is a Physical Therapist in the Employer Based Clinic setting in Indianapolis, IN. Alex enjoys seeing patients return to an active lifestyle after treatment for their pain and dysfunction. He takes into consideration the psychosocial and physical requirements in treatment and believes in creating a positive and healing environment for his patients.