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Stretching - better before or after training?

Why do we stretch at all?! Is it better to stretch before or after a training session? Will stretching before or after training help prevent injuries?

stretchingThere is a widely held belief that stretching before a training session will help reduce your risk of injury. This isn't strictly true, and a number of studies have found that stretching alone prior to exercise does not reduce your injury risk. In fact, you are much better off doing a longer warm up period of lower intensity exercise than stretching on it's own!

For example, runners who never stretch before running are no more prone to injury than those who stretch.

Why is this? You can think of your muscles as being like chewing gum: when chewing gum is cold it's easy to tear apart and break, but when it has warmed up it becomes very stretchy and hard to tear. Your muscles are very similar: cold muscles are more likely to tear than warm ones. Thus stretching is best performed after a warm up period or after a training session.

So should you not stretch at all before training? Not necessarily, because there are other reasons to stretch than reducing injury: it improves your flexibility, relieves muscle tension and stiffness, and it is a "feel good" way to prepare your body for the more intense work to come. A short stretch following a decent warm up is the best way to get your training off to a great start!

And remember: always stretch after training! This is the best time to improve your flexibility because everything is warm and ready to stretch well (think chewing gum on the pavement on a hot day!). Being flexible means less chance of injury all round and will keep your posture good and muscle tightness or soreness in check. It is also a nice way to finish up your session and let your body and mind relax after some hard work!

To find out more about core work, flexibility, or stretching contact us!


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