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To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

In the past, everyone was taught to stretch before engaging in physical activity. Now, however, researchers say that certain popular stretching routines are not only ineffective as warm-ups but can sometimes leave you even more vulnerable to injury.
There are two types of stretching techniques. Dynamic stretches are aerobic exercises of light-to-moderate intensity that stimulate blood flow and have a warming effect on the muscles you plan to use during your exercise. Static stretches require extending an arm, leg or other body part to the point of tension and holding that position for a period of time, often a full minute or more.
Only dynamic stretches should be performed before engaging in physical activity, because they mimic the movements we make during rigorous exercise and warm up the body.Ideally, your warm-up routine should consist of dynamic stretches specifically targeted to the muscles you will be using in your activity. For instance, light jogging in place is a good preparation for a run, and gentle arm swings or shoulder rolls can effectively prepare a swimmer for a meet.
Static stretches done before physical activity negatively affect performance and increase the risk of injury. A 2013 review of 104 studies, conducted at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, found that static stretching before a workout reduced muscle strength by as much as 5.5% and decreased explosive muscular performance—such as jumping as high or running as hard as you can—by almost 3%. The stretched muscle becomes less responsive and may remain weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching—clearly, not the way an athlete wants to begin a workout. Thus, static stretches are best performed after physical activity, to promote flexibility and range of motion while minimizing post-activity soreness.
Stretching technique also matters. Stretch only as far as you can without pain. Hold the position without bouncing for 3o seconds, and take deep breaths to relax the body and safely increase the stretch.
When performed appropriately, stretching can make your workout more effective and keep you healthy. Unsure about which stretches are best for you? After we review your physical shape, lifestyle and the activities you participate in, we can design a program of stretches to help you maintain peak performance while avoiding injury that might sideline your physical activity altogether.
Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Wyckoff, NJ provides orthopedic and sports physical therapy services for the greater Ridgewood, Wyckoff, and Bergen County region.  This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. The views expressed here are the author’s views and should be taken as suggestions. Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before engaging in a physical therapy or rehabilitative program.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
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