Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stretching: Before versus After

The science of stretching is increasingly important to me so I'm trying to collect what I know.  The most basic concept in stretching is to understand the difference between stretches best done at the start of a workout and those best done at the end of a workout.

 BTW, NOTE that I am no expert and I'm writing this to solicit feedback and record my somewhat basic understanding. It is NOT a how-to written by a medically-competent coach, trainer, or advisor. In short, follow this advice at your own risk. Expert advice is however welcome. Anyone want to guest post?

At the start of a workout, the goal is to warm up the muscles and get limber enough to have a good workout. The emphasis should be on warming up with stretching being of limited ambition and intensity. The goal is simply to get limber. The primary focus should be on warming up via jumping jacks, pushups, situps, and other basics.

At the end of a workout, the stretching should be more ambitious.  The goal here is to increase flexibility. Stretching should be steady and intense and in repetitions of three, each held no more than 30 seconds.

Here's my open questions:

1.   Is this basic description of stretching before and after class right? If so, how much time before a class should be devoted to stretching (as distinct from time spent warming up)?  And how much after?  I (remember, I'm in my 50s), require 15 minutes to warm up before class in addition to the first ten minutes of class which is also a warm up. Often, I'll do light calisthenics, a few kata, and stretches for 20-30 minutes before class. However, while I might spend 5 minutes at the end of class stretching or part of the cooldown, I never spend a full 15 minutes stretching at the end .

2. What about the other stretching that I do which is typically first thing in the morning or last thing at night?   Should it be minimal or intense? Does it require a full warmup to be useful? The reality is that I spend 15-25 minutes in the morning and night doing pushups, situps, and stretching.  I wish that I did this 14 times a week, the reality is that I do it about 7-10 times at the moment. Typically,  backrolls, pushups, leg lifts, low front kicks, crunches, more pushups, toe touches, hip stretches (my current problem area), spreadlegs, knee splits, downward facing dog, and so on.


Charles Indelicato said...

My Sabunim encourages students to arrive to class early so they may stretch and warm-up on their own. A typical class - for both adults and children - involves about 20 mins of cardio exercises (much as you describe in At the start of a workout, followed by stretching, leg splits, pancakes, etc.

Many people have asked why stretching doesn't come before cardio, and his answer is always the same: should you ever encounter an adversary who wants to do you harm, you won't have time to warm-up ("Excuse me, thug, let me stretch before you try to rob me.")

In the adult class there are times when he switches the order of training and has the students spar right from the beginning.

There is a brief cool-down at the end of class, but that is generally left to the student to do on their own.

To your questions, and based on my own experience, I tried to arrive to class with at least 15 mins to spare for me to just as you described: calisthenics, Poomse, etc. (for the record, I earned my 1st Dan at 44).

As to your other stretching, you seem to have covered all the bases. Strong, flexible legs and hardened core is a great state for anyone.

BBat50 said...

Charles, that's good insight and advice. I'm also intrigued by the second word in your comment. My "Sabunim' which I assume is a term for a teacher. I've been meaning to do a post going through the terms such as master, sensei, grand master, kyoshi, dai-sensei, xiansheng, sempei (master student), and roshi.

I'd organize them (this is my own naive first shot at it) as:
sensi and sempei - first level of respect
master - 2nd level
grand master, kyoshi, roshi - highest level