Stretch or Warm Up? Vital Pre-Workout Tips

The question athletes and workout buffs ponder is whether stretching is important at all before a workout or a game.

Winston-Salem State University physical therapy professor, Lynn Millar says that it’s important to distinguish between warming up and stretching. A warm-up “is an activity that helps get your muscles ready and blood circulating for activity. Stretching is definitely some sort of arm up” she says. “No coach I know would ever consider stretching alone to be a sufficient preparation before activity.”

The activity you plan to will help determine the importance of stretching in your preparation. Dr. Millar says, “As an example, a pulled hamstring is a common injury that sprinters suffer. I recommend a dynamic warm-up such as jogging with high knees since that activity is very dynamic,” says Dr. Millar. “Rarely does a distance runner suffer from a pulled hamstring. This is because when going out for a long jog, stretching is not required because you start out slowly and increase the pace in a gradual manner.”

The Mayo Clinic’s co-director of the Sports Medicine Center Rochester, Minn., Edward Laskowski, says that in the summer Olympics you’ll observe track-and-field athletes doing dynamic stretches. He states that “You’ll notice hurdlers kicking their legs up at the hurdle and slowly going over a few hurdles to warm up their muscles”.

When it comes to stretching, genetics and age are huge factors.  Mr Laskowski says “Some people are naturally endowed with more flexible muscles.”  He added, “As we age, our muscles start to stiffen a little and it does help to warm up the muscles prior to a game of soccer or spend a bit more time easing into a jog.”

Dr. Millar recommends rather than stretching, people should increase their heart rate by starting out at a slower pace before beginning exercise. A few laps of slow-pace swimming can help warm the body up and get you into the rhythm before swimming at full pace or before going into an uphill sprint on a bike, start your bike at a very comfortable pace to slowly get the muscles warmed up and raise the heart rate up.