Stretching has become a controversial issue in the fitness world in recent years. Some studies suggest it inhibits muscular performance and actually increases people’s chances of getting hurt. For example, if you stretch before you lift weights, you may feel weaker during your workout; your hands may not be steady, risking injuries.
Experts, however, are not ready to ban stretches from pre-training routines.
The confusion comes from mistaking stretching for warmups. What people should steer clear of is static stretching – stretching muscles between 30 and 90 seconds while the body is at rest and you’re not moving at all. These should be done when you’re cooling down after a workout to increase flexibility.
But before exercising, dynamic stretching is what professionals agree is best. “For someone doing a typical gym workout, the warm-up should not be static stretching, but instead a more dynamic, or moving, stretching. This will warm up the body by getting the heart rate elevated and move the body through a range of motion, but will do so actively,” according to Mike Lagomarsine, Fitness and Recreation Center director of fitness at Boston University.
Examples of dynamic stretches are walking lunges, jumping jacks, butt kicks, leg swings, and high knees. Moving while stretching increases the temperature of the muscles to ensure they are flexible and pliable.
Stretching, dynamic or static, has many benefits but must be done at the right time. Otherwise, it can do a lot of damage – a joint can get pinched or nerves or ligaments can be stretched too far.
Now that it’s clear you should never stand still and do stretches that work just one muscle at a time before exercising, here is a list of stretches you are better off forgetting about.