To Stretch, or Not To Stretch…That is the Question

We all have been instructed to stretch before exercise or athletic performance, and we followed those instructions, however, it may be time for an update. Dr. Michael Lange and I, Dr. Richard Hall, have visited dozens of gyms during our travels, and as research scientists, we both have observed hundreds of men and women working out in the gym or running track. We both observed how the trainers would prepare for their workout by stretching ( notice I said “stretching”, not “warming up”, I will explain later) The more we saw, the more we researched, and we found a massive amount of information. We saw trainers actually injure themselves by hyper extending the muscles and joints areas of the body.

I said I would explain the difference between “stretching” and “warming up”….although these terms are often interchanged, they are not the same. Both are good exercise protocols, but there is a time and place for them in order to be effective, and not cause injury. Warming up the body before working out is primary as it slowly warms the joints and muscles, which the warms the Collagen muscle fibers and allows them to become more elastic. Stretching is essential, however, doing it before the workout has not proven as beneficial as we once thought. In recent studies it did not appear to be as we once thought. In most cases, it DOES NOT prevent injury, increase endurance, reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after exercise), or improve exercise/athletic performance…in fact, stretching, pre- workout, can actually stress and weaken the muscles and joints. This sounds like stretching is bad for you,but that’s quite the contrary, it just has a specific time and place. So where does this leave this question? Very simply put, warming up prior to stretching or exercise is the smart way. Dynamic stretching is the better form to use as it mimics the exercise you are about to do…if you are going to run, then walk first…if you are lifting weights, do the same exercises for your stretch as you are doing in your workout, just super light weight. You are basically going through the motions as the saying goes. But remember, always warm-up first before stretching or exercise. Also, stretching should always be included in your “cool-down” after exercise. Don’t just stop exercising and walk away, you need to cool-down and let the body return to normal…you cannot rush this process,take your time, maybe a little yoga, tai-chi movement.

Quick points….

  • Do not stretch to the point where you feel pain or discomfort.
  • Do not consider stretching as your warm-up before exercise. It can be part of your warm-up, but is not a substitute for a total body warm-up.
  • Dynamic Stretch mimics your actual workout movements…for example, if you are planning a run at the track or just around the neighborhood, begin with a walk at a slow pace, then build up intensity/speed gradually.
  • Stretching after exercise is a real plus…the muscles are warmed up and therefore more pliable and flexible.
  • Cool down, then stretch, after exercise of any type, and especially after a walk/run, or a weight training session.
  • Do not attempt to stretch cold muscles, warm-up first…always!
  • Always hydrate before, during and after exercise. Make sure to sip some water during your cool down session.
  • Do not bounce the movement when stretching, as this tends to promote hypertension of the joints, and over stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Dr. Lange and I would advise using our sports performance formula, FIT as part of your pre-workout and post-workout routine. FIT was created over a three year period of research and formulation, and never settling for second best. I am an Exercise Recovery Specialist, and through my research I found that a majority of exercise enthusiasts do not recover properly…after exercise, your body needs to recover, and only drinking a bottle of water is just not enough. If you do not recover ( this is not a lengthy process, but a very important one) then you will not obtain the desired results from your exercise. You also open the door for injury, DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), limited ROM, (Range of Motion), muscle and body discomfort.

This is Dr. Lange’s and my plan…

1/2- 1 scoop of FIT in water
10 minute full body warm-up
5 minute dynamic stretching

  • Hydrate during your workout ( I actually save about half of my pre-workout FIT, add 12 ounces of water, and sip it during my workout.)

1/2- 1 scoop FIT in water, plus one scoop of our Protein Isolate
10 minutes full body cooldown
5-10 .minutes of Dynamic Stretching using fluid movements from Yoga and Tai-Chi. Note: we both use body rollers as well…very inexpensive dense foam roll that can easily fit into gym bag.

I sincerely hope this will help you along your wellness journey. This is not a substitute for advice from your health care practitioner.
Regards and respect
Dr. Richard Hall PhD SNS CPT
Fortifeye Performance Nutrition