Here at Compass Physio we get asked this question a lot so today’s blog is to outline our views on what we feel is the best approach for you.
The most common questions are
- What type of stretching should I do?
- Should I Stretch pre/post exercise?
- How long should i do the stretches for?
- Should I warm up and cool down pre/post exercise
What type of stretching should I do?
There are two main types of stretching that we are going to look at
This is where we elongate a muscle and hold it in one position for a certain amount of time. An example is a calf stretch where you place the back leg behind you with the heel on the ground and toes facing forward.
This is a stretching technique that uses momentum to move the muscle/joint from the ends of the range of movement available. An example is a leg swing where in standing you swing your leg forward in front and then behind you. Movements are carried out in a controlled manner.
Pros and Cons:
The general overview is that
- The stretch you decide to do is dependant on your need i.e. if your warming up or cooling down
- Static stretching should not be performed pre exercise as it can affect negatively your performance
- Dynamic stretching should be carried out pre exercise
- Static stretches post exercise or indeed in the long term to improve muscle flexibility
- Static stretches post exercise in conjunction with foam rolling have been found to be the most effective.
Should you do a warm up?
There is s lot of research out there that is constantly being updated.
One of the most popular overviews is from a systematic review by Behm et all in 2001.
Their well respected opinion is that a warm up is
- Used to reduce any impairments when carrying out your activity
- Should assist in enhancing your performance
- Consists of submaximal intensity exercise similar to what you will be doing in your workout
- Incorporates dynamic stretches
- Sports specific dynamic activities where appropriate
Do I even need to stretch at all? If so for how long?
Who has done it. Busy day in work. Home, grab the runners, get to the park and take off on a run. A lot of people do this, get through and have no side effects at all.
The general consensus is that we should do a warm up, but for how long?
The general rule of thumb is 20% of your actual workout time.
The suggestion is to keep it as relevant to your activity as possible. If you are going for a leisurely job which is on the flat and in straight lines then you recreate this in the warm up.
If you are going to play gaelic then you would look more toward changes of direction which acceleration and deceleration drills along with some jumping activities.
Static stretches if performed should be carried out for 30-45 seconds where possible.
What about a cool down?
Surely everyone does a cool down?
Well the good news is that the latest research shows that an active cool down has according to the evidence a minimal effect on
- Next Day Performance/Activity
- DOMS (Muscle soreness post exercise)
- Muscle Flexibility and stiffness post exercise
This is outlined in the main infographic attached above for anyone with an interest in the science. May Thanks to Yann Le Meur for their great work creating this