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Warm Up & Stretching

Brad Farra - Monday, November 09, 2009

If you have ever been a patient of mine you know that I think a warm up before any athletic performance is important. Equally important is the post exercise stretching.

A good warm up should increase muscle and core temperature, increase blood flow, and prepare your soft tissues for work. No one really argues the point that a warm up is important. Warm up allows for a faster muscle contraction and relaxation, improves strength and power, increases blood flow to working muscles, enhances metabolic reactions, and even improves oxygen delivery. Improved injury prevention is probably the most important benefit of a good warm up.

While the importance of a good warm up is not disputed, it seems that we will be arguing about when to stretch and when not to until robots have taken over the planet and there are no more muscles to stretch. Until the humans are dead I'll try to sort through the research to give you some guidelines.

With sports that require an increased range of motion pre-exercise stretching should be performed after warming up. An examples of a sport requiring a maximum range of motion is gymnastics. In other sports static stretching can reduce muscle performance, but the evidence is somewhat conflicting. The most important time to stretch is after your activity. Post exercise stretching facilitates improvements in flexibility and helps prevent injury. I often tell my patients that are runners that if they don't have time to stretch after their run, then they don't have time to run. Stretch after your exercise, you'll thank me and you won't be in my office with an injury that needs treatment.

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