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Don't Stretch Until You Read This

For years, conventional fitness wisdom told us that static stretching before an exercise bout will decrease injury risk and improve performance. As it turns out, if you want to get the most out of your lifts, reaching for your toes or going into full pretzel mode for 30 seconds to a minute is actually going to hurt your performance!

Static stretching is defined as stretching a muscle to its full range of motion for greater than 30 seconds. Studies have shown that static stretching before your workout will decrease force production and stability!

I know we all want to live to see the day where we’re benching 315 for reps, so maybe doing a chest opener before your three times a week bench dedicated workout is a non starter.

Here’s why.

Static Stretching will decrease the sensitivity of these little fibers called muscle spindles that insert into the connective tissue of your muscle. These fibers detect the relative level of stretch in the muscle and send signals to the spinal cord to prevent over stretching and over contracting the muscle. They also cause muscle contraction when the muscle is stretched during exercise. This decrease in sensitivity significantly reduces force production and showed a nearly 10% decrease in 1 rep max in one study!

This isn’t to say that static stretching should be completely avoided. Static stretching will actually grow the muscle’s size by chronically increasing its length. This can help strengthen your muscle in addition to weight training. Static stretching after a workout can also decrease muscle soreness and will improve normal range of motion in the muscle, preventing injury.

The Take Home Messages:

  1. If you’re trying to get the most out of a bout of strength or conditioning training, DO NOT static stretch before your workout. Instead focus on doing a dynamic warm up that will target the same muscle groups.

  2. Static stretching ISN’T evil when it comes to strength training. It will lead to stronger, longer muscles, provided you don’t work your static stretching in pre workout. Right place, right time… right?

  3. Static stretching after your workout can decrease muscle soreness and improve recovery.

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