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Should You Stretch Before and After Weightlifting?
Should You Stretch Before and After Weightlifting?
Should you stretch before you weightlift?
What about stretching after you weightlift?
These workouts already take up a lot of time and energy.
Do you really want to spend even more time to complete your routine?
Don’t confuse stretching with warming up, or cooling down, although stretching may be part of these activities.
And to make matters a little more confusing, the benefits of stretching can be used in three different phases:
- Immediately before exercise
- Immediately after exercise
- As part of a regular daily program.
And different types of stretching— dynamic, static, or ballistic—give you even more options.
Should You Stretch? Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching put your joints and muscles through a range of motion.
These help you warm up and loosen up, preparing your muscles and joints for the strenuous activity of weightlifting.
It’s best to stick to dynamic stretching before you lift weights.
You can warm up with a small amount of cardiovascular work before your dynamic stretches.
This could be five to ten minutes on the stationary bike or elliptical machine.
Should You Stretch? Static Stretching
With static stretching, you hold a stretch at the end of your range of motion.
Once you feel the stretch you hold that position for a while.
There are various kinds of static stretching.
You can work the muscles that do the opposite action of the one you are stretching to create the stretch.
You can work the muscle itself while it is in a stretched position.
Lastly, you don’t work the muscles at all and only focus on the stretch.
Should You Stretch? Ballistic Stretching
Ballistic stretching is popular among athletes, but not ideal for the average person.
This intense stretching method uses bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal range of motion.
Static stretches are performed slowly and gradually but the ballistic method stretches muscles much farther and faster.
Ballistic stretches require extra force, they extend the muscles and tendons through a larger range of movement.
Study Results for Stretching Before Weightlifting
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning did a study of three groups after 10 weeks of training.
Participants lifted weights with stretching done first, strength training with stretching done during sets (often seen at the gym), and weight training alone.
They compared the strength results and levels of IGF-1, a muscle building hormone.
The study found that static stretching weakened the muscles when performed both before and during exercise.
Each group got stronger after 10 weeks.
But the group that didn’t stretch at all got significantly stronger than the groups that did, and also had greater levels of IGF-1.
The study showed that stretching before or during exercise had a weakening effect.
It also didn’t prevent injuries.
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Another study, which included more substantial stretching, showed an increase in long-term strength when stretching after exercising.
While dynamic stretching (stretching through movement) is probably better pre-exercise, static stretching many well be the better choice for post-exercise.
Why We Stretch:
- Increase or maintain flexibility during our daily activities
- Prevent injury while playing sports and exercising
- Perform better in sports
- Lessen muscle soreness after exercise
We all need a certain amount of flexibility to perform our everyday tasks.
So it makes sense that we should do exercises that maintain or enhance our natural flexibility.
But is stretching as beneficial as we were told?
Should You Stretch? Prevent Sports Injury
Much attention has been focused on how stretching will help prevent injuries but surprisingly, few benefits of stretching before or after physical activity have been confirmed.
Perhaps these benefits are now neither as obvious nor nearly as strong as previously believed.
Some studies have suggested that too much stretching may even be harmful to performance and safety.
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Should You Stretch? Increase Sports Performance
With some activities, research has found that stretching before an event actually makes performance worse.
With a power sport like weightlifting, static stretching before competition or training may affect your ability to use explosive power.
Some researchers have found that stretching may cause the muscles to lose energy stored in the elastic part of muscles.
Others believe that stretching affects the nervous system so that it does not send signals to the muscles as efficiently.
Should You Stretch? Prevent Muscle Soreness After Exercise
Delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS occurs when you become sore after exercising.
Stretching before or after exercise has long been believed to reduce or prevent soreness.
However, a review of all studies of stretching practices did not find any benefit from stretching for the prevention of muscle soreness.
But “warming up” adds something more and has more positive effects.
Warming Up vs. Stretching
Contrary to popular belief, warming up and stretching aren’t the same thing.
A “warm-up” is a light exercise to get the blood and joint lubricating fluid flowing before your workout.
This may include light jogging, doing some light weights or cycling for 10 to 15 minutes, and some stretching.
A warmup increases the temperature of your muscles and can include static or dynamic stretching.
The increased core temperature means muscles are more pliable and the joints will have a greater range of motion.
This improved range of motion means you now have greater flexibility.
Lifting heavy loads with stiff, inflexible muscles increases the risk of sprains and strains.
To lift heavy weights, break PRs, and add muscle, you’ll need a great warmup to unlock your full potential before every workout.
Warm up before lifting and don’t think a five-minute jog on the treadmill and some lunges are enough.
You’re not ready for a 300-pound deadlift yet.
Rethink Your Preworkout Routine
A growing scientific consensus found that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.
Most physical trainers haven’t recommended extensive stretching before workouts for quite some time.
Most prefer a light and brief stretch beforehand and spending more time on recovery stretching afterward.
“It has been a long time since anyone has recommended extensive stretching before exercise because it has been known for a while now that the best time to stretch is after,” says Richard Cotton, the national director of certification at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
So why did stretching become such an ingrained part of the preworkout routine?
It can help with flexibility and improve range of motion, but trainers say many people confuse stretching with warming up muscles.
Lynn Millar is a professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.
“If you go back to training guidelines, they say that stretching is part of it, but not all of it.
It should not be done alone as a warm-up.”
Conclusion for Should You Stretch Before and After Weightlifting?
Here’s what we know: stretching and flexibility training can give people a wider range of motion in their joints.
This is helpful in performing their daily activities and to improve balance and posture.
Although stretching before exercises may not be of significant value, regular daily stretching is beneficial for flexibility.
This is important in preventing falls and other injuries as people age.
Stretching alone before a workout or an event is probably not beneficial and may impair performance for some sports and activities, including weightlifting.
So when it comes to preparing for a workout, focus on warming up the body rather than simply stretching muscles.
This means adding exercises in addition to light stretching, like jumping jacks, which can prepare the body for intensive activity without making the muscles vulnerable to overwork.