Ask the trainer: When to stretch?

Question: Hi Ryan, I would like to know if it is better to stretch before or after I work out. People tell me different things and it can be very confusing. Thanks for your help.

Answer: The proper order of exercise, especially when it comes to stretching is one of those topics where you can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. While I will answer your question, I will also try to answer the larger order of how to combine all of the different training modalities.

Warm up– When we work out, it is always important to warm up. The warm up can be a light jog or performing specific exercises or movments slowly or with little resistence. The idea is to get the body lose and the blood flowing in preparation for the intense exercise. Working out cold can sometimes lead to injury.

Resistence training– Resistence or strength training should be the first thing you do after the warmup if you are planning on it. The energy stores and muscle fiber types needed for resistence training will be the first to go so it’s important that if you are going to strength train that you do it first as you will likely not have as much energy later.

Cardiovascular training– Cardiovascular training relies primiraly on oxygen so it should always be done after your strength training. Some people prefer to do it first and while this is fine, it will take away from the energy needed for the workout.

Flexibility– Flexibility, or stretching should always be saved for the end of the work out unless there is a specific injury or severe tightnedd which needs work on prior to a workout. Stretching prior to a workout can interfere with the neuromuscular system and can cause the muscles to work in a less than efficient manner.

Cooldown– A cooldoen should always be done at the end of a workout. A stretch can be a way of cooling down but if you chose not to stretch, it is important to do something which will serve to cool the body down, rather than to stop

Exercise of the Week (Single Leg Squat)

leg_dum-173The single leg squat is a great exercise which is effective in many ways. It’s a great exercise for the glutes as well as the quadriceps and there is a huge balance element which is great for your core as well as coordination.

The Setup

Start by Standing with the feet together. This can be done with or without weights but either way, keep your hands at your sides. Lift one leg off of the ground and kick tha leg back at the hip.

The Movement

Brace your abs and slowly sit back into a squat. Make sure to lean forward at the hip and keep your foot flat on the floor. Once you reach a comfortable depth, drive up through your heels and press back up. Try not to let the raised leg touch the ground until you finish your desired number of repetitions.

This is a great exercise and if you have trouble balancing throughout, don’t be discouraged, it takes time to build the balance.

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