There is a huge debate about stretching in weight lifting. Does it have a place? If so, where? And what are the benefits and disadvantages of stretching. Let’s see.
Why do people stretch?
People perform stretching exercises to increase the flexibility of a muscle. Stretching before a sporting performance is believed to help prevent injury, in that a muscle which has been pushed to a certain limit in a controlled manner (via stretching) will reduce the risk of injury when that range of motion is reached during the performance.
Does it work?
Some say yes, others say no. Generally, a warm up is absolutely necessary in all physical activities. A warm up in baseball, for instance, would constitute jogging to warm the leg muscles up, and maybe some practice swings or pitches to get the arms warmed up. Likewise in weight lifting, a warm up would be several sets performed at lower weight to warm the muscles up in the build up to the big lift.
When it comes to weight lifting, many vehemently argue that stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments is imperative to preventing injury. Whilst others say stretching the muscles in such a way takes the explosive tension out of the muscles hindering performance, and makes them more susceptible to injury.
Renowned strength training coach Mark Rippetoe advises against stretching as a warm up, but also emphasises the importance of thoroughly warming up with sufficient warm up sets.
Stretching, in my book, certainly has a place between or after work outs. By stretching you can improve balance by increasing flexibility of a muscle group, which makes many lifts such as the squat easier, and you can help to stave off injuries or intra muscular imbalances.
Stretching is also used by many top athletes during and after exercises, in the belief that it aids in muscle growth by stretching the muscle fascia, which houses the muscle fibres and inhibits growth unless it is placed under undue stress from stretching or extreme pumps.
But, as for stretching before a workout? That’s your choice – but definitely perform warm up sets!