Fitness Mythbusting: Warm-Ups and Stretching Routines

Before you hit the treadmill or head for the free weights, chances are you take a few minutes to stretch…right? And stretching protects your muscles from injury…right? Sure, but only if you do it right!

Myth: Pain means progress.

Truth: Stretching should cause slight discomfort, but never pain. If you feel a sharp pain or burning sensation when you stretch, it’s time to back off a little bit. Overstretching will only cause muscle tears, which may mean you have to take time off from your workout.

Myth: Stretching should always be the first thing you do.

Truth: Stretching cold muscles is another great way to injure yourself. Rather than stretching first thing, do a light ten-minute warm-up. A brisk walk or gentle jog should be sufficient—whatever will get the blood flowing to your muscles.

Myth: All stretching exercises are the same.

Truth: Your body’s needs vary based on the kinds of physical activity you do. Cyclists may need to focus more on stretching their backs, since they often bend forward. Weight lifters may have tight hips and shoulders. A personal trainer can help you figure out the best stretches for your physical activity and fitness needs.

Myth: Dynamic stretches aren’t good for your muscles.

Truth: Static stretches are the ones where you get into stretch and hold it (at least ten seconds!).  You’ll get the most benefit from these after your workout, when your muscles are loose and limber. After your warm-up, do a few dynamic stretches (where you move as you stretch). These stretches have multiple benefits for your body.

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