Should We Stretch Before Exercise?

Stretching is a term that is used very loosely in the fitness industry. Everybody has been taught as young kids to stretch out. I remember in 1st grade physical education, my teacher leading us through stretches before a game of kickball. When to stretch or not to stretch at all is the question you can ask yourself. For the past 13 years as a personal trainer, my fitness manager has come to me year after year saying that the stretching trends and methods are changing. For the most part, I personally will always at least warm-up my body before exercising at my correct intensity, and that’s usually because of instinct and because it will help me get to my target heart rate much faster! Let’s take a look at what we’ve been told regarding stretching, and when it’s best according to current fitness standards.

At one point in time, we’ve all been told to stretch out before doing any kind of aerobic exercise, mainly to avoid injury, help performance, and help with muscle soreness. According to current personal training standards, there is still no proof that is convincing to support that stretching prevents muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is simply a result of muscles being worked, and fatigue being reached during your exercise routine. Muscle soreness is not actually a bad thing, proper nutrition and rest will help you get through muscle soreness.

Next, I’ve always been taught that stretching would help my performance as an athlete. Current information that is being taught to trainers, is that stretching before exercise has no influential impact on a person’s athletic performance. I now question what coaches all over the world are teaching their high school and college teams. I know for a fact that many football coaches are still teaching to run on your toes, because it makes you faster. Coaches don’t understand or care that this is extremely painful for your knees, and could shorten your career.

As a personal trainer with all my clients, I teach that a warm-up is needed, but not stretching before any type of exercise. I will explain exactly what I mean by a warm-up. The best known warmup exercise that I use with all my clients, is the “hokey pokey”. The “hokey pokey” is a warm up routine that asks for every part of your body to require some kind of energy. Warming up is simply getting every body part to accept consistent blood flow. Let’s not make warming up difficult, when simple things like the “hokey pokey” work well.

I’ve always taught clients to stretch when their workout is complete! Stretching at the end of your workout, helps to properly “cool down” and bring your heart rate back to your normal resting rate, and will also help improve range of motion.

In conclusion, stretching is best after your workout is complete, there has been no conclusive evidence showing me anything different. Please do your own research, and give me your feedback.