Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang Workshops in the U.S. 2010
An Email from the United Kingdom

Stretching the Truth -- Is Stretching Before Exercise Good or Bad?

I've almost always done some type of stretching before doing martial arts, or any other sport for that matter. I always believed that I felt better and was more physically prepared after stretching and loosening up.

Recent reports have suggested, however, that stretching isn't good for you -- in fact, some have suggested it can rob you of strength.

As usual, the claims are overblown. There are a couple of good articles online that go into the debate from a research point of view. Here they are:

http://www.readysetgofitness.com/newsletter/48_truth_about_stretching.html

and

http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/stretching-research-retrospective

After reading both of these articles, I have concluded the following:

  • I'm going to continue stretching and warming up before exercise. Warmups with some resistance seem to be more effective than static stretching to prepare for a major sports event.
  • Most of our practices are not major sports events and don't always require maximum strength, so stretching has no negative impact on most of us. If we were going for a bench press record, perhaps we would want to skip the static stretching just before the event.
  • You should incorporate different types of stretching and warming up into your routine.
  • Static stretching can help flexibility but it should be done regularly and not necessarily before a major sporting event. In other words, if you're competing tomorrow, do your static stretching today and the day after the event.

A lot of stretching exercises, including ones I have recently put in video on the online school, can be done every day.

Research shows that as we age, we lose flexibility. Exercise and appropriate stretching can help you maintain flexibility.

So go ahead -- if you're about to have a workout, stretch and warm up. Get the muscles ready. Read the articles in those links and you'll be a little more prepared to choose the right stretch at the right time.

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