Do you perform any stretching exercises? And if so, when do you do them? There has been a lot of discussion about this in the press recently, and as a result, many people are confused about if or when they should perform stretching exercises.
Let's look first at the benefits of regularly performing stretching exercises. They will, of course, improve your flexibility, with the benefits including:
- Improved performance
- Fewer injuries
- Faster recovery between workouts
Looking at these it is clear that stretching exercises should be part of your workout program, so the question then becomes, when should you do them?
Many people include flexibility work as part of their warm-up - indeed, many trainers teach this as part of a standard warm-up. However, the research makes clear that this practice is counter-productive, with one exception, which we will discuss alter.
Suffice to say that if you are a regular Joe (or Jane) performing your workout at your local health club, your flexibility work should be part of your cool down, not your warm up.
That means that every workout should look something like this:
- Warm up: 5 - 10 minutes easy cardio, plus exercise specific warm-up
- Main activity/activities: cardio, resistance, or a combination of the two
- Cool down: 5 minutes easy cardio
- Flexibility work: 10 minutes easy stretching
The only exception to this is athletes who are about to perform a fast-moving ballistic activity, who will need to include dynamic flexibility work as part of their warm-up.