Should you stretch before working out? This is one of those things that you are going to find many different opinions on, and another question in the field on training that can be answered with “it just depends.” When I was growing up playing sports the thinking was get a little warmed up, get the blood “pumping”, get the heart rate high, get a little stretch on and get after it, but as I grew older the thought process changed. As I began to make my way through college my professors began to push “never stretch before doing something that requires power.” This would include running, jumping, lifting weights, and pretty much any sport that may fatigue the creatine phosphate energy system. What was their reasoning? The thought was that lengthening the muscles like one does while stretching lengthens the muscles too far, thus decreasing the amount of power one can produce in a power/forceful type movement. Makes sense, right? My issue wasn’t the theory or science behind it, but rather that this was taught as the law, and if you didn’t obey it you were totally wrong.
So getting back to the point, should we stretch before doing something like lifting weights. In my opinion you have to weigh the risk vs rewards. If stretching before a workout decreases your power by a small percentage, but at the same time allows you to get a full range of motion and perform the lift properly shouldn’t we do it? If stretching before exercise lowers the risk of potential injury shouldn’t we do it? Going back to what I said earlier, “it just depends.”
A soccer player who has tight anterior hips, who lacks the ability to properly perform a good squatting pattern vs. a world class gymnast who can move and guide their body though every range of motion possible, shouldn’t we train these two athletes different?
I have heard different NBA strength coaches speak on this subject, and for them it is simple. If they have players who can jump 40 inches, but after stretching that vertical jump may decrease to 38.5 inches, in their mind stretching is worth it because the risk vs reward of that player becoming injured is not worth that 1.5 inches.
Before we answer a question like this with a simple yes or no, we as coaches, trainers, athletes etc, have to gather more information and treat each scenario individually. Is the yes or no answer the right fit for everyone? Every person is different and I think it’s unfair to answer any question similar to this with a simple yes or no.
Brett Cummins- (CNP) Certified Nice Person
CSCS, USAW, CSAC, CSAS, CFSC