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Should you stretch before a workout?

<p>Should you stretch before a workout?</p>
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

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Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 5 min read
There's a lot of conflicting information out there about stretching before you workout, such as whether to hold stretches for a long time, bouncing during a stretch, and that if you don't before a workout you'll be injured.  

Researchers are finding that stretching won't necessarily prevent sitting out on the sidelines. Injury is due to many factors, including poor technique, muscle imbalances, and not warming up properly. The upside: Greatest expert and trainer Kelvin Gary says the risk can be minimized by stretching regularly as part of a warm-up and cool down.

So that makes the question to answer is whether you need to stretch at all. Well, it's a good idea says the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends stretching each of the major muscle groups at least two times a week for 60 seconds per exercise.
Staying flexible as you age is a good idea. It helps you move better. For example, regular stretching can help keep your hips and hamstrings flexible later in life, says Lynn Millar, PhD. She's a physical therapist and professor at Winston-Salem State University. If your posture or activities are a problem, make it a habit to stretch those muscles regularly. If you have back pain from sitting at a desk all day, stretches that reverse that posture could help.

Simple Back Stretch

Exercise physiologist Mike Bracko recommends doing the "Standing Cat-Camel" as a work-related back stretch. Here's how:

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly.
Lean forward, placing your hands just above your knees.
Round your back so that your chest is closed and your shoulders are curved forward.
Then arch your back so that your chest opens and your shoulders roll back.
Repeat several times.
If your job keeps you in the same position all day, Bracko suggests doing 2-minute stretch breaks to reverse that posture at least every hour.

When it comes to holding a stretch, you don't necessarily need to hold it to get the benefit. Stretching and holding a muscle to it's full extent is called a static stretch, and there's certainly no harm in stretching like this as long as it doesn't hurt. 

But studies suggest a dynamic stretch is just as effective, and sometimes better, especially before your workout. A dynamic stretch, like the Standing Cat-Camel, moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.