Does Stretching Really Matter?
By: Clive “Mike” Haas
When it comes to working out, stretching can get kind of confusing. A lot of questions quickly come to mind.
1. What muscles do I stretch?
2. How long should I stretch each muscle?
3. Do I stretch differently for warming up and cooling down?
4. Why bother? I just want to get stronger and faster, not more flexible.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand your body, and the goal of your fitness program. Most programs are developed for a client with a specific goal in mind. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain strength and muscle tone, or to increase your cardiovascular endurance, your body must have some degree of flexibility and mobility. Without this, an exercise program may be ineffective, or unsafe due to a risk of injury. Whatever your fitness goal might be, success is more likely if your body can move with more fluidity, allowing you to work at a higher intensity, with a reduced risk of injury, achieved by including the right mix of flexibility training in your workouts.
To understand what it means to stretch, one should understand the concept of flexibility. Flexibility is defined as the range of motion (ROM) of a joint or a series of joints. More importantly, it’s the ability of a joint to move freely through its full ROM while improving movement performance or reducing the opportunity for injury. So, when it comes to what muscles to stretch, there are two solid answers. Give attention to the muscles you are about to exercise or those you just completed using after your workout.
This brings us to the next two questions, which will address the duration of each stretch, and the differences between warming up and cooling down. The duration of the stretch depends a lot on whether you are warming up or cooling down. Prior to undertaking vigorous activities, clients should engage in some form of preparatory exercise referred to as a warm-up. Theoretically, the following physiological changes take place during warm-up and should enhance performance.
1. The temperature increases within the muscles that are being recruited during the warm-up session. A warmed muscle contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. As a result, both speed and strength should be enhanced during exercise.
2. The temperature of the blood as it travels through the working muscle increases. As blood temperature rises more oxygen is unloaded to the working muscles.
3. The ROM around joints is increased as a result of the warm-up.
Recent trends have shown that an effective warm-up prior to exercise is an Active Dynamic Warm-up (ADW). The proper ADW is a warm-up specific to your training goal or sport. Specifically, the ADW focuses on movement patterns that the body is about to perform, preparing the body for more intense work. This will reduce the risk of injury and maximize performance. Active Dynamic Warm-ups should gradually increase your body’s core temperature as you simultaneously improve joint ROM from the ground up. Plan on a pre-workout investment of at least 10 minutes and up to 20 depending on the intensity and type of exercise you will be participating in. For some ideas and example of what an ADW might look like, check out this video clip
Following intense physical activity, the next phase of the workout, and equally as important as the warm-up, is the cool down. A cool down generally consists of stretching the muscles that were worked intensely during the workout. It is common practice to perform a static stretch for a cool down. A static stretch is a slow and steady stretch of a joint to a position causing minor discomfort. A static stretch should be held for no more than 30 seconds. Increasing the stretch for a longer period isn’t advantageous. For a great resource to learn more about this segment of your workout click here.
So, Why Bother?
After discussing the physiological benefits, stretching or flexibility training is vital to your fitness program. Stretching properly can reduce the risk of injury, maximize intensity during the workout, and increase ROM, thus decreasing stress and post-workout soreness. Overlooking this facet of your program will only set you back, and reduce the probability of achieving your fitness goal.
Earle, Roger W. and Baechle, Thomas R. NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training. Hong Kong: Human Kinetics, 2004 pp 268-277
Stensland, Jessi. “Before You Run: The Dynamic Warm-up” Active.com http://beta.active.com/running/articles/before-you-run-the-dynamic-warm-and-45up
Crunchy Pea Salad
- 2 1/4 cups frozen green peas
- 1 1/4 cups diced cucumber
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 2 T rice vinegar
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T honey
- 1/2 t coarsely ground pepper
- 1/4 t salt
Combine peas with cucumber, radishes, and green onions in a bowl. Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl. Stir well with a whisk. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture and toss gently to coat.
Serves 4. 119 Calories per serving.
The Perfect Stretch
with Chris Litten
on Mike Liebert
Mike Liebert started coming to Body Basics in May, 2012. Mike was referreCd to Body Basics by his massage therapist, our own Dee Fletcher. Mike’s fitness goals when he started were to be able to go on moderate hikes and travel for extended periods without pain. He also wanted to lose about 20 pounds. Mobility was a real issue with Mike, especially in his upper spine and neck due to lots of degenerative changes. They caused great discomfort and limited his ability to turn his head from side to side making daily tasks such as driving a car, or even getting dressed, painful.
Mike quickly developed great habits by diligently tracking several nutrition and physical activity goals on a daily basis. Though not quite hiking, Mike hasn’t missed more than a couple days’ of walking for 30 minutes (pain free), and has improved his food intake by increasing fruits and vegetables, reducing sugary snacks, and maintaining a healthy hydration level. This has resulted in Mike nearly hitting his weight loss goal! As for his sore neck and lack of mobility in his spine, working with Mike Haas, Mike has greatly improved his FMS score for his shoulder mobility, as spotlighted in last month’s video in the Body Basics newsletter, and has improved range of motion in his back, shoulders, chest and hips. What is the net result of his improved mobility? Mike is in less pain, able to drive more safely, sleep much better, and plans to travel with confidence but without pain!
Mike, keep up the great work, it’s very rewarding to see you realize the fruits of your efforts!
Congratulations, Mike, Chris, Maureen, Amber, Nick, Amelia, and Nate
Each client that refers a friend or family member has a chance of winning an iPad or other nifty prize as a token of our gratitude.
Thank you to Jeanne Baluta for bringing her husband Gary in to train with us. Thank you to Dee Fletcher for referring Shelly Phipps. We also want to welcome Ron Geistfeld, husband of Annette.
Introducing an Additional Fitness Fusion Small Group Session at 4:30!
BodyBasics is pleased to announce that we have added a new time to participate in our increasingly popular Fitness Fusion personalized small group sessions. It will be Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 4:30 p.m.
Fitness Fusion is a unique small group because it is the closest thing to personalized training without being one on one. Each exercise is developed to be scaled up or down to fit the needs of each person. We blend together all elements of a fit body, core, balance, flexibility, strength and cardio. Thrive on the energy of a group and have fun too! Everything’s more fun when you bring a friend!
As a thank you to our community. We invite area teachers to participate in this and ANY of our other small group session offerings at a special rate.
Congratulations to Joe Heater who increased from 1X per week to 2X per week! He is off to a great start in reaching a livable level of lifestyle change!