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Should I stretch as part of my warm-up?

Wendy Batts
Fitness
Yes! Stretching is a great addition to any warm-up plan. Static stretching is one of the most common flexibility techniques and it serves to lengthen muscle tissues that are found to be too short or tight based on a movement assessment. Static stretching involves passively moving a joint into position and holding that position for 20-30 seconds. Be sure to stretch the muscles that you know to be tight based on a movement assessment. Stretching muscles that have not been identified as needing lengthening may actually get in the way of solid exercise performance. Contact a qualified fitness professional for more information on how to perform movement assessments and interpret their results.

Stretching the right muscles helps to increase the mobility of restricted joints. Tight muscles will pull joints out of alignment so relaxing them will get them ready by putting them in more ideal ranges of motion. This can reduce the risk of injury and improve the way your body uses muscles to coordinate movement.
Yes, you should definitely stretch as part of your warm-up; however, different types of stretching have different benefits, so you want to make sure to choose the type that is right for you.  Three types of stretching you can perform before exercise include self-myofascial release (foam rolling), static stretching, and dynamic stretching.  Self-myofascial release, often called foam-rolling (after the foam roller device used to perform it) is a form of stretching that focuses not only on the muscles but the fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles.  The gentle pressure that is applied to our muscles while we foam roll helps to eliminate tension and reduce the impact of "knots" or tender spots that develop in the tissue.  Eliminating unwanted tension and tender spots within the muscles helps them to lengthen and shorten more appropriately, allowing greater ranges of motion to be achieved during exercise.  Static stretching, probably the most well-known and utilized form of stretching,  involves passively and gently taking a muscle to the first point of tension and then holding it in that position for up to 30 seconds.  Static stretching works well at helping to restore length to tight muscles. If being performed as a pre-activity warm-up, make sure to use static stretching only on tight muscles because static stretching muscles that are not tight can cause a decrease in performance and/or increase injury risk.  Provided there are no muscle imbalances present, dynamic stretching is the most ideal way to stretch when warming up, becauses it uses the force production of the  muscles and momentum during various movements to take the joints through their full, available range of motion better preparing them for the resistance training routine.  So, if you have some muscles that are short and tight, perform foam rolling and static stretching on them first, followed by some dynamic stretching immediately afterward.  If no muscle imbalances exist, perform foam rolling first followed by dynamic stretching immediately before your workout.   

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.