Feb 17, 2014

Do you stretch before exercise?

This question is often misunderstood with professional athletes and to the average gym goer.   As a strength coach, personal trainer, and karate instructor I promote and encourage “stretching” before exercise or physical activity.  Don’t freak out and say…….but I thought stretching is bad for you before exercise because it can actually cause injury or increase the chance of pulling, tweaking (NOT TWERKING), or straining a muscle!!!!  Before I hear you through our site…., I need to elaborate on my definition of pre-workout “stretching”.  There is a major difference between stretching a muscle for an increased range of motion and warming up a muscle or joint.   This is where the question is too often misinterpreted.

Ever feel as if you have limited motion or stiffness in a joint?  For example an ankle that hurts while walking down the stairs right after you wake up in the morning.  You wouldn’t be alone if you’ve felt this pain or stiffness.  Many joints such as the knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows for example are called synovial joints.  These joints contain what is called synovial fluid, which is a thick substance much like the yolk of an egg that lubricates a joint and helps with its range of motion.  This is not what they refer to in bodybuilding as being
“YOKED” FYI.  It’s consistency is unlike other fluids in the body in the sense that it serves as a kind of connective tissue within the joint.  This allows certain mechanical functions like helping cushion the joint and allowing bones and cartilage to move past each other with greater ease, as well as improving its range of motion.  In a nut shell, the fluid is like oil for the Tin Man……He couldn’t move without oil in his joints and without proper lubrication within our joints, the same thing occurs.  It provides shock absorption and lubrication within and around the joint.

Creating synovial fluid or increasing its presence is accomplished by performing joint circling drills or through low impact isometric holds.  I start all exercise routines and workouts with a head to toe joint  circle warmup or stretch.  This is where I mean “stretching” prior to any physical activity.  A typical joint circle routine would include the following 4-5 times each direction top to bottom…….

  • Neck Circles each direction
  • Shoulder Circles forward and back
  • Wrist Circles
  • Elbow Circles with extensions as well (jabbing motion)
  • Slow punches to the front and side
  • Hip/Trunk Circles
  • Knee Circles
  • Ankle Circles
  • Slow leg lifts or kicks

This is a simplistic example but easy to perform prior to any activity.   Perform this short 2-3 minute routine before any physical activity top to bottom.  With that said, simplistic or not, I can not stress the importance of actually going through this “stretching” routine!  After more than a few knee surgeries and with a history of jumping right in to a workout or an event cold, I truly understand the importance of a pre “stretch” warm up before engaging in physical activity.  Take my word for it, if you have creaky knees, shoulders, or wrists this quick and easy routine may work wonders and will improve a joints range of motion, increase blood temperature which allows oxygen to become more available to working muscles thus improving endurance, and can serve as a great time to mentally prepare for an event, competition, or workout.

Now ATTACK and Think Tin Man and get those juices flowing…….literally in those joints!