I am writing in response to Shonna Porter's answer in Order of Exercises in Group Ex. Research completed in the last 15 years has determined that stretching is not appropriate before a workout. The exception being dynamic stretches incorporated into the warm up. The purpose of the warm up is to prepare your body for the high intensity workout, increasing blood flow, range of motion, increased heart rate, etc. The real question was probably, "Should I do range of motion exercises (i.e., shoulder mobility, etc) prior to rehearsal of cardio moves (pulse raising exercises)?" The answer is that it all depends on the increase in the bpm and safety of the movement with higher bpm. For instance, I may do shoulder rolls, arms reaches, chest expansion and retraction right at the beginning at 132 bpm before knee raises and hamstring curls. But pull and push moves can be included with the hamstring curls etc as we get up toward 138 bpm and ready to start our cardio.
In response to your comments, I would like to say that I am not debating the importance of an exercise appropriate warm up prior to activity. I agree that the warm up should be progressive and exercise specific. I do not agree, however, that a pre-workout stretch is not beneficial or appropriate. But I want to clarify, the purpose of a pre workout stretch would be for the benefit of offsetting muscle imbalances and not to prepare the body for activity. In that case, does it really make sense to warm up, stop and stretch the muscles and then begin activity? My answer would be no, and it seems you would agree. Perhaps that was not clear in my previous response. My point was simply, if you perform a pre-workout stretch, it is done to offset muscle imbalances, not in preparation for activity. I also mentioned that the body does not need to be warm before stretching, which is a common myth among fitness professionals.
Prior to exercise, it is not the stretch that decreases injury. As a matter of fact, new research suggests that stretching prior to workout can actually cause injury because stretching has an analgesic affect and muscles can remain weakened for up to 15 minutes after being stretched. Therefore, if someone is going to perform high impact or explosive exercises, stretching prior to a progressive warm up is much safer. In addition, performing ROM activities in a warm up past what is necessary to perform the workout may also cause injuries.
I am not debating the importance of flexibility. I believe stretching is an important part of a balanced fitness regime. Regular stretching (three to five days a week) will improve exercise performance, decrease injury and increase ROM. I am suggesting, however, that static or foam roll stretching is just as beneficial if not more beneficial as a separate activity. If someone finds it more practical to incorporate it into a cardio workout, then it should be done before or after activity.
Should you wish to read further on this topic, I would suggest the following periodicals:
- “The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Thacker, et al. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. March 2004.
- “Does Warming up Prevent Injury in Sports? The Evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials.” Fradkin, Gabbe, Cameron. Journal of Science in Medicine and Sports. 2006