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Not by Any Stretch


Are “warming up” and “stretching” the same thing? Often people equate the two. But “warming up” and “long-term flexibility development” are really quite different concepts that have evolved over time. And our practice should reflect that.

Faced with some sport or physical endeavour, most people want to jump right into it, but then that little light bulb goes off in their heads and they say, “Oh, I’d better warm up,” or, “Guess I’d better stretch.” They assume the two things are synonymous. Then they force a limb into an awkward position, while holding their breath, and bouncing and wincing trying to make the muscle relax and stretch (you can see yourself here, can’t you?). The problem with this approach is that you are likely forcing a cold muscle to do something it doesn’t want to do, and you’re not actually warming up.

Although “stretching” can certainly be part of both warming up and long-term flexibility development, there are distinct differences in the best way to achieve either goal.

(top) A static stretch of a cold hamstring muscle can actually cause micro-tears and degrade performance of technique in class. (bottom) The author demonstrates a "dynamic" stretch, using a gently swinging of the leg, in a widening arc, to perform the hamstring stretch.




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