Stretching as a warm-up before exercise has been taught in schools for generations. Today experts debate the effectiveness of stretching cold muscles. The VarCity cold truth? Stretching is helpful, but keep these basics in mind:
1. Avoid Stretching a Cold Muscle
Only perform "static stretching” (stretch and hold) after a five to 10 minute warm-up. A warmed-up muscle can stretch longer and endure more stretching and you may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles.
2. Use Dynamic or “Active” Stretching as a Warm-Up
Dynamic stretches mimic movements used in a sport or activity. Warm-ups prepare the body for activity by helping to increase blood flow and muscle temperature.
If you're preparing to play tennis, for example, you’ll want to practice side and front lunges as part of your warm-up – movements you'll use to reach for the ball.
Light, gentle rhythmic movements work best for the average person. Go through a shallow range of motion (e.g. a half-squat vs. a full squat) until you're thoroughly warmed up."
3. Stretch at the End of your Workout
Stretching at the end of the cool-down phase (i.e. after exercise when your muscles are still warm) helps to maintain long-term flexibility benefits.