Stretching The Truth

stretching outsideWe know that stretching when exercising is important at Mountain Trek. As a fitness boot camp, we happen to do a lot of it. But studies are showing that the key to making it effective, is a matter of when you stretch.

The latest exercise research shows that you should stretch after a workout and not before. Charles Poloquin, hailed as one of the world’s premier strength coaches, says in his blog


A plethora of recent studies have shown that static stretching actually weakens the muscles before strength training, therefore exposing you to a greater risk of injury.

A decrease in muscle strength

When you lengthen or stretch a muscle before it is worked you actually reduce the strength potential within that muscle. In a recent study conducted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. In another study published by The Telegraph in the UK, it was found that stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30%!

Don’t misunderstand and think that you don’t need to stretch or that you will lose overall strength if you stretch. As part of our weight loss program we do a lot of hiking and consequently, a lot of stretching. This study just shows a strength decrease immediately after the stretch. This means the strength comes back after waiting for a while. If sequenced correctly, you can actually gain strength with proper stretching.

Instead of stretching

Warm up the muscles with approximately 5 minutes of cardio to get the blood flowing throughout the body. According to P.J. Glassey, co-owner of X-Gym in Seattle says, a “warm muscle is a strong muscle”. He also says that “too often people think that stretching is a warm up and its not”.

An article on sports medicine offers, “if injury prevention is the primary objective, the evidence suggests that athletes should limit the stretching before exercise and increase the warm up time.”

Why should you stretch?

Aside from increased energy, better posture and flexibility, and heightened mental clarity, it just feels good! When combining cardio & strength training It is recommended by fitness trainers and exercise scientists that weight lifting (strength training) come before any sort of cardiovascular training (running, cycling, aerobic machines or classes) if you like to combine strength training and cardio in the same workout.

The theory behind this is that you do not want to fatigue the muscles before challenging yourself with pushing and pulling heavy weights.

Moreover, you want to strength train the larger muscle groups first and finish with the smaller stabilizers. This follows the Chek Institute which teaches, that you train your inner core at the end of your workout. This prevents your core stabilizers from becoming fatigued to the point of not being able to properly support your spine and lower back.

Confused? It’s OK.

Here is a simple list of proper sequencing for your workout.

1) Warm-up: 5-10 mins of cardio

2) Strength training: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps at maximum effort

3) Cardiovascular Exercise: 40-60 minutes at 65%-85% max heart rate

4) Core Stability Exercises: at least 3 core exercises focusing on slow movement in neutral spine

5) Stretch: hold each stretch for 30 seconds

Note: you do not need to do #2 and #3 in every workout.