Sunday, April 22, 2007

Stretching before class really won't help at all...

I have been reading a variety of well known health magazines, and online information on the whole topic of stretching. The latest findings have been that the tradition of a pre-class stretching "warm up" will not reduce the risk of injury during training, and if one puts too much emphasis on stretching the ligaments, and tendons can even make muscle tears happen even more frequently. Instead of saying what has already been said in a less specific way, I've decided to cut and paste parts of an article for your reading interest. If you are interested in reading more.. you can find the whole article here:

A look at stretching and warm-ups in the past

If you have been exercising regularly for the past twenty years, you will have seen the relationship of stretching and warming up go through several distinct changes. Stretching used to be the main activity of the warm-up. In fact, the warm-up consisted of nothing else but stretches and isolated joint exercises like ankle circles, neck rolls, etc. The most common stretches then were “ballistic” stretches that were characterized by a bouncing movement. Further along, ballistic stretches were discovered to have a high risk of injury so static stretches, which have a lower risk of injury, were substituted.

Researchers then discovered that forcing a “cold” muscle to stretch could produce a whole new set of injuries. Thus was born the concept of that one needed to do some type of low intensity exercise like marching in place, jogging, cycling, etc. to raise body temperature first before proceeding on to static stretching. And that’s been the warm-up protocol ever since – do full body movements for about five minutes and stretch for another five minutes after.

Warm-up as rehearsal
About ten years ago, some exercise scientists began to question the validity of including static stretching in the warm-up as the concept of “functional fitness” started to take shape. Since a static stretch is held without moving, these scientists felt that it did not specifically prepare the body for movement. The warm- up is supposed to be a ‘rehearsal’ for the main show – the more vigorous part of your workout (whatever that may be). In other words, static stretches did not function efficiently as a rehearsal movement in the warm-up.

Why a warm-up is called a warm-up
TBody temperature needs to be raised by approximately two degrees Fahrenheit from the start of the warm-up to the beginning of the workout or game proper, writes Paula Anderson in her article, “The Active Range Warm-Up” (IDEA Fitness Edge Magazine, April 2000) to make the muscles more pliable, release joint fluid, allow for a gradual rise in blood pressure and heart rate, and quicken nerve transmissions.

Anderson makes a good analogy with breakfast porridge. If the porridge is too cold (not enough of a warm-up) the body will not make a good transition into the more vigorous part of the exercise. If the person is playing golf, he or she won’t really feel in the “groove” until the third or fourth hole. If playing basketball, it won’t be until the second quarter that the athlete will feel truly limbered up and ready for action.

If the porridge is too hot (the warm-up is too intense) the body is “shocked” into moving right away. Heart rate and blood pressure rise too rapidly, early fatigue sets in, and muscles are not given time to gradually adapt to the movement increasing the risk for muscle tears.

If the porridge is just right (a gradual well designed warm-up), performance is enhanced and optimum exercise time is prolonged.

Stretching delays the warm-up process
It appears that it is the increased body temperature that is created by doing large range of motion body movements similar but lower in intensity than the actual exercise that is the most important factor in a good warm-up. Standing still while doing static stretches does not help to increase body temperature and, therefore, is not an appropriate activity for the warm-up.
(big snip)

The right way to warm-up
Based on current research, the “right” way to warm-up is to do low intensity full body movement similar to your desired exercise or sport format for about ten minutes. This satisfies the two requirements for an appropriate warm-up – increasing body temperature gradually and specifically “rehearsing” the body for the more vigorous movement coming.

For sports, intersperse walking or light jogging with low intensity versions of the specific sports movement. For example, for tennis, go through the motions of the different swings without the racket. Don’t forget to also simulate the different leg positions that you will have to do in the game like moving laterally, lunging diagonally, etc.


Will said...

Fascinating, I've always been reticent to stretch before a workout. For some reason, it's always felt wrong to me. I believe that a warmup is definitely required and that stretching dynamically while in the process of warming up is where it's at. Nice to have a study or two to back it up!

Here's a link to another discussion of Pope's study with a little more detail:

Colin Wee said...

Sorry Mir - seems like there's another discussion going on on my forum regarding this subject. Stretching on TMAC Forum.

supergroup7 said...

Thanks for the second link, Will.. I'll go check it out as soon as I find the time. Gosh.. I didn't realize just how precious a few minutes on the computer could be until just recently. It seems that my every living second is going towards mothering, housework, groceries, and karate training/ planning... Leisure time for me? Non-existent.

supergroup7 said...

Gee Colin, I do not see a need for you to say "Sorry" to me.. I LOVE visiting the TMAC Forum.. and I'm happy that my little weblog article has sparked some interaction over there. I'll be visiting there soon.. but right now, it's time for laundry, and dishes.

Anonymous said...

Colin Wee said...

It's just to be polite. Besides - the few posts over there were started off by your own post and are more or less related to the discussion here. Colin

Selby Karateka said...

Not had a chance to visit for a while, (sorry) still luv your blog.
I did a course a 5 day course with the army martial arts assocation in the uk last year, we had daily instruction on warm ups by an ex warrant officer from the PT corp, very interesting and it made me think a lot more about stretching etc.
If Sensei asks you to take the warm ups, what are you preparing for? you dont know unless you ask him/her do you? a Generic routine will not reflect what your Sensei wants to teach.
Why have only one set of warm ups ? If you are concentrating on "Zuki" prepare for it and raise arrobic movement, warm the muscles etc and after the Kihon stretch the muscles.
Then before you move on to say "Geri" again warm the muscle groups with arobic movement, soft stretch, exercise the kihon and stretch agian to maximise movement.
Before this course I had only ever seen warm ups at the beginnning of the session, why? lets warm up and stretch specifically before each different technique, strengthern our muscles and increase our flexability, sorry for going on, I am no expert but I enjoy listerning to sensei that know more than me, we can learn not just from our karate sensei but sports sensei and sensei of life (anyone) Osu, thanks for reading selbykarateka "kohai"

supergroup7 said...

Wow Will.. that article bluntly says it all, and supports it all with facts. Thank you so much for suggesting it.

O.K. Colin, I understand, and I accept your apology. :-)

Thank you for the link, Anonymous. Now you realize that I broke my own rule by including your comment here.. I had promised myself not to allow any anonymous comments on my blog. In the past I was having problems with Anonymous people posting nasty things. So I had taken the habit of acting a certain way. If the comment didn't have a name, then I would automatically delete it. but that link was so good that I broke my promise.

Hi Selby!!!! Welcome back!

That sounds interesting.. putting warm up interspaced during class.. Nice. I like the sound of that..It could improve cardio, warm up the various parts that might be focused upon, and get things rolling in the right direction. Thanks for the suggestion.

[Mat] said...

I've been meaning to comment here for a while. Time as been scarce to say the least and it will be that way until next August! Year end procedures and all.

I just meant to say that I don't strech anymore before workouts, but after.

I found that streching before actually performing annoyed me. So I simply stopped. at the same time, starting cold doesn't help either. Muscles are stiff and I feel like I could hurt myself going full speed. So I build up temperature and at first, do my karate stuff slowly, gradually going faster.

This is the way I've gotten the best results. Gross motor skills don't come in too fast that way and I can work on finesse more.

For now, it's what works. I'm still young and lucky to have a body that adapts to most anything. But even if sometimes I start off cool, the best results I had was doing the exercice directly. Slowly, faster, faster faster, full speed!


supergroup7 said...

I agree with you, Mat. I find that stretching after a good work out feels better, and seems to support my efforts.

I'm sorry that you are so busy, Mat. It's nice that you find time to come visit my weblog. Don't feel like you have to comment, just take it easy, have a drink, and relax. I know that you are my friend.. :-)

[Mat] said...

Ha! no obligation. I like IT :)