Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Article # 243. Stretching vs. Warm-up

Stretching vs. Warm-up
Many people may ask, “what is the difference between stretching and warming-up?”, or “aren’t they the same thing?”. Well, there is a difference, and no they are not the same. The definition of warm-up is commonly confused in relation to stretching whereas stretching is considered by many to be a warm-up in itself. If you were to take a look around your local gym, you would probably witness many people coming in and doing a short stretch or two before beginning their routine. In this day and age as new technology emerges, new discoveries about our health and fitness techniques does also. We are a generation that likes to follow the crowd and stick to our old ways, when we should be implementing change. Change is good! Many professional athletes and personal trainers have made the switch and they are getting better results because of it. The change is simple: Warm-up first, then stretch. You will be glad you did.

Warm-up first
In order for you to see the difference you must first understand what the difference is. Warming up simply prepares your body mentally and physically for the workout ahead. For example, take the word warm-up, it is just that. It warms up your body by increasing blood flow and generating heat throughout your muscles. Warm muscles means less risk of injury. If your muscles were cold they would be more susceptible to pulls and tears. A step by step look at what warming up does for your body would reveal that by warming up and increasing blood flow, your muscles become loose and relaxed. With the blood coursing through your veins at a faster rate, your muscles are receiving more oxygen. This enables your muscles to actually withstand better during physical activity. Although warming up by itself has no effect on your muscles range of motion, a warm-up followed by stretching increases your muscles range of motion. A muscles range of motion is the full range of movement a muscle can go without tearing or pulling.

Then Stretch
There is no doubt that stretching is a very important part of any physical activity. If your muscles are tight and stiff, they can easily be injured. Stretching is a perfect remedy for this. According to experts, stretching is best after physical activity to relieve muscle aches and pains. It can also be used before exercising to reach full range of motion by pushing your muscles to the max. But to use it before, you would want to warm up first to get your muscles heated so they can stretch farther. By stretching farther you are increasing your muscles range of motion, which means you can get the most out of your work out. While stretching before you work out is ideal, you definitely want to stretch afterward to relieve tension that is built during physical activity. This tension could lead to painful cramps. So all in all stretching can be a very valuable asset when getting ready to perform your fitness routine, and after to relax those tight muscles. Remember, stretching itself does not prevent injury, but a warm-up prepares your muscles for stretching, which aids in avoiding any injury.
Now that you know the difference between stretching and warming up, it should change the way you look at physical activity, pre-exercise and post-exercise. This is the first of many changes to come in our health and fitness education, but hopefully the word will spread and we can see less injuries in our future!


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