Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Jun

Are Stretching and Warmups Overrated?

stretchingIf you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of protracted stretching routines or extended warmups that end up taking longer than the workout itself. I like simplicity. I like cutting corners without sacrificing quality or results. I’m okay with warmups that fulfill their basic goal – getting the muscles warmed up and ready for movement – and with active stretches that move you through the full ranges of motion you’ll be traversing during the workout, but that’s about it. If there was strong evidence in favor of stretching as a protective measure, I would be all over it, because I hate down time. But the latest research indicates that stretching is harmless at best and a performance-detractor if done excessively. Furthermore, warmups, while effective in the right doses, can lead to fatigue and lower performance if overdone.

So what does the research say and what should we be doing (if anything) to prepare for physical activity?

Stretching: The Evidence

Now, I’m not saying stretching is bad for you. The latest big study (looking at over a hundred studies) on stretching found that only excessive static stretches (greater than 60 seconds in duration) impeded athletic performance, so it’s not always bad for you. It’s just not all that great, either. The authors found that shorter stretches of say, 30 seconds, were “not detrimental.” Okay, fantastic! Short stretches won’t hurt, but there’s no evidence that they help, either. “Not detrimental” is not exactly a blistering endorsement of the practice.

There is evidence that dynamic stretching is superior to static stretching, however. In the latest study to confirm this, athletes performed either a warmup with dynamic stretching, no stretching, or static stretching. After both static stretching and dynamic stretching, sit-and-reach ability increased, but it was only after dynamic stretching that reactive jumping height improved. So, it appears that dynamic stretching (think walking lunges, leg swings, stuff like that) improves flexibility and retains performance, while evidence is strong that static stretching does not.

Warmups: Less is More?

Warmups are not workouts, but if you treat them like one, don’t be surprised if your real workout performance suffers. A recent study out of the University of Calgary subjected sprint cyclists to two different warmup protocols. The first group got the traditional, time-tested, “proven” warmup routine: 20 minutes of cycling with a gradual intensity increase from 65% to 95% of max heart rate, followed by four sprints at eight minute intervals. The second group did 15 minutes of cycling with a gradual intensity increase from 60% to 70% of max heart rate, followed by a single sprint. Both groups then did a 30-second Wingate test, which tests peak anaerobic output and capacity. The second group, which performed a much shorter, far less-intense warmup, performed best on the Wingate test. The first group was deemed fatigued (gee, you think?).

I think warmups should be intuitive. If you’re squatting heavy today, warm up by squatting lighter weights until you reach your work weight. The lighter weights will serve as stretches, since they won’t pose any loading problems, and you’ll be able to focus on getting your joints acclimated to the impending work. If you’re sprinting, start by walking, then jogging, then do “sprints” at 70-80% intensity. Basically, warmup by doing lighter versions of what you’re going to be doing in the workout.

Here’s an example of why this is so important. I recently went out for beach sprints with a buddy of mine – an endurance guy, totally fit and a daily runner – who ended up pulling his hamstring on the second sprint, simply because he figured he could jump right into sprints without working up to it. He’s probably “fitter” than me now, overall, and certainly puts in way more miles, but because I make it a point to sprint every single week, I was able to sprint from the get go without stretching or even warming up. He couldn’t, because he never put his hamstrings through that type of work. If he’d warmed up by doing a few light sprints, he probably would have been fine. In effect, the fact that I stay active and sprint on a regular basis negates my need for warming up for that particular activity. I’m always “on.”

As for stretching, I like how animals do it. Like cats, for example. Stretching is just an everyday part of their lives, rather than an activity requiring allotted time. They get up in the morning, stretch. They walk by a scratch post (or couch), dig their claws in, and get a quick stretch. They’re always getting little stretching bouts in. Or what about dogs? My lab, Buddha, stretches, but he doesn’t make a big thing about it. He doesn’t use bands or hold stretches for minutes at a time. He’ll do the classic downward dog yoga pose (hence the name) whenever he gets up, and if I scratch his back when he’s laying on his belly, he’ll do something I call the soldier crawl. This is a good one. The back legs shoot out straight behind him and he pulls himself forward with his forelegs, dragging his body along the floor while throwing his chin back to elongate his spine. It’s an incredibly complex stretch that he just does intuitively. The closest human equivalent would be a cobra stretch. Of course, he also doesn’t sit in a chair for eight hours a day and he’s not overweight. He doesn’t wear big shoes that impede his gait, nor does he lead a sedentary life. I guess what we can learn from animals is that integrating stretching and regular movement into your daily regimen, while never letting the creakiness accumulate, is the most effective and effortless path to limber limbs. You have to move, and move often, to keep the cobwebs at bay.

The story changes for certain groups. If you’re CrossFitting, doing heavy resistance work, playing sports at a high level, and/or training with a specific athletic goal in mind, your warmup will probably be more extensive and you may need some dedicated stretching time. I’ve linked to him before, but Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD blog is designed for these groups. They’re the ones who, each week, squat a hundred reps, do a couple hundred pullups, perform Olympic lifts, swing some kettlebells, climb rope, push sleds, and run. Their battered muscles, joints, and connective tissue need the extra attention, and I think it’d be folly to expect the average CrossFitter to perform all WODs without warming up beyond a Grok squat and a few leg swings and go injury-free. But for the average Joe, keeping warmups minimal and stretching intuitive is ideal.

Here’s what I think: couple the lack of conclusive evidence in favor of static stretching as a preventive safety measure, the evidence that too much pre-training static stretching can actually limit strength, and the recent evidence showing that longer warmups increase fatigue and reduce performance, and I think people are in serious need of sensible warmup and stretching guidance. This stuff can get confusing. So, given my years of experience and keeping in mind my own modest fitness goals at this stage in my life here is my mental checklist that I follow each time I exercise. Rather than being a laundry list of quantified movements and times, it’s an entirely qualitative way of designing a warmup and stretching “routine.” It’s not what you should be doing but rather how you should be feeling:

  • You should feel physically warm. Warmup doesn’t have “warm” in the name for nothing. Your muscles literally, physically warm up, and warm muscles are less viscous. They receive more blood and nutrients. They contract faster, and the efficiency of opposing muscle contraction and relaxation (or muscle twitch) increases. Warm muscles simply work better than cold muscles. Sufficient warmth might appear as a bit of heavy breathing and some light sweating.
  • You should feel fluid and pain-free. Creaky joints and stiff muscles prevent good movement.
  • You should feel mentally prepared. The movements should be second nature by the time the workout rolls around. The neural pathways should be established during the warmup, so that once you increase the intensity (either by adding weight or reps), your CNS is prepared to facilitate the movements.
  • You should feel physically prepared for the movements you’re about to perform. You should be able to perform the movements without stiffness or overcompensation with other body parts. So, if you’re going to be squatting today, before you put the big weight on your back or start pounding out the bodyweight squats, you should feel ready to reach depth with a neutral spine (no rounding), your knees out inline with your toes, and your heels firmly on the ground. It might take a few leg swings, a minute of Grok squatting, and some bodyweight lunges with a torso twist (to hit those hip flexors) to get to where you need to be.

Do what you need to feel warm, feel fluid, and feel mentally and physically prepared for the workout. For me, that means keeping busy, walking a lot, maintaining full Grok squat mobility, trying not to sit too much, and throwing in some leg swings, a Grok hang, and some light sprints before a workout. If anything specific bugs me (which is pretty rare), I’ll usually spend some time on the foam roller, browse Mobility WOD, or play around with some of the joint mobility drills I outlined in my joint mobility series.

General Guidelines

  • Avoid static stretches lasting more than a minute.
  • Do dynamic stretches that take you through your full range of movement, but do so in a controlled fashion. Don’t go swinging your leg all willy nilly. Have control.
  • Keep your warmups brief and to the point. Get warm; don’t get exhausted.
  • Figure out your shortcomings (tight hips? poor squat depth? slumping shoulders?) and work on those. Read my mobility series and check out the other resources I’ve mentioned.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to share any stretching or warmup tips and tricks in the comment section.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I wonder if Grok asked the sabre-toothed tiger to wait until he’d done his stretching and warm-up exercises?

    Stevemidd wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • HAHAHAHAHAHA this is too awesome! And an awesome point!

      How did you get your grok logo to be turned sideways like that? I like it.

      Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Grok also spent his days walking, clambering, squatting, trotting, sprinting, climbing and jumping over rough and unpredictable terrain. He was in a constant state of warm-up wherever he went because his environment was a constant challenge. We are not, and so we need some supplementary warm-up to avoid injury. Seems reasonable to me.

      Uncephalized wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • I agree 100%. But we don’t need to do conventional stretches where we hold for 30-60 seconds.

        I just think we need to MOVE, MOVE, MOVE. Just move more folks! It’s really easy! Do squats randomly… I just did 10! Do push-ups randomly… I just did 5!

        I DARE you to get up from your office chair and do 10 squats. Or do 5 push-ups in the hallway. If you think you might get fired then hold off. Maybe talk with a few co-workers to see if you can do a squat flash mob in the office?

        HAVE FUN!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • I just did 10 grok squats and 5 push-ups :) But I work from home so no one to fire me over it! Thanks for the inspiration as always Primal Toad!

          Robin wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • Yeppers. I walk by my pull up bar and do pull ups at random all the time. I work from home so no funny looks here either :)

          In the winter time pushups really warm me up so I do them often too. Personally, I really hate workouts. I think they’re about on par with commercials for boringness.

          I am super active with walking, bike riding, tree climbing, and other types of play, but workouts (and stretching, ick ick ick) just don’t do it for me. That’s where the intermittent pullups and pushups come in handy. I can take 2 minutes out for a work out easy but not so much 20 minutes.

          Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • One of my favorite work stretches is to walk down the hallway doing chest flies. We have nice wide hallways here, so my wingspan isn’t hampered by all those inconvenient walls.

          Hal wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • I do that! And we’re moving to another office, so I’m modifying my desk so that there’s a part of it I can use as a standing desk…

          Dave, RN wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • Mark, can you pleas write a post about how you managed to create your primal clone “the toad” and whether he’s free range and pastures or not?

          wtf wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • I just did 5 push-ups! It always feels good to get up and move around :)

        Mark wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • Just did 15 squats.

          Turbo Kelly wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • I love it ladies and gents! Time for x amount of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and… walk? Its that time of the day for our lovely boston terrier!

          Does anyone walk and read at the same time? It is one of my favorite activities. I just can’t see myself sitting down to read anymore… I do it once in a while but its just not as fun. Throw in a few squats and I am golden.

          Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Totally unrelated article here, but you guys may find it interesting. Looks like another piece of evidence in favor of eating when you’re hungry/intermittent fasting…

      http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/28/snacking.drives.overeating/index.html?iref=obinsite

      Ginger Thickbeard wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Why would Grok need to warm up? He would have been moving all day. Warm ups ARE important for most homo sapiens today because the majority of them do their exercise after being sedentary all day. So they must warm up and stretch to account for the muscle imbalance that occurs as the result of the typical Western lifestyle

      jared wrote on July 1st, 2011
  2. I’ve always wondered about stretching. Pre primal I used to engage in static stretches for about 5-10 minutes total before I ran… oh those were the days!

    I have recently been doing bodyweight exercises every other day. I even did it back 2 back days this week on Tuesday and Wednesday and am honestly contemplating giving it a go today! I mean… I feel great and have the desire!

    Today I simply do the grok hang and grok stretch. I follow that up with a few of each exercise I am going to perform. I sometimes do 50 knee’s to chest and once in a blue moon I will run a lap which is .4 miles.

    Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • static stretching fixed my lower back pain which was really bad for almost 2 years. i never stopped doing it. it’s been like 4 years now. up to this day I won’t get out of bed in the morning without doing my special lower back pain stretch. not a problem ever since i started doing this. my back’s like new :-) sometimes the stretch takes less then a minute, at other times might take 2. i am not counting, just going by the FEEL. but that is just me of course.

      einstein wrote on July 4th, 2012
  3. nice post!

    frank wrote on June 30th, 2011
  4. I am not big on elabrorate warmups either, but I always do static stretching (30 seconds max per stretch) post-workout because I find it helps me reduce DOMS. I am pretty sure it’s not all in my head. Any insight into this, Mark?

    unchatenfrance wrote on June 30th, 2011
  5. An orthopedic surgeon once told me that stretching (esp. of the joints and ligaments) is BAD. Constantly stretching joints like the shoulders results in weak joints that give out.
    If anyone has ever dislocated a shoulder they know what I’m talking about.
    I used to stretch ALL the time when younger, I was so limber, bending backwards, tossing my legs behind my head, etc…
    This is VERY bad and kids should be discouraged from doing this.

    On top of it a diet high in grains and legumes results in unstable joints making the matter worse. Ever dismember a chicken from the store fed on soy and a pasture raised, bug eating chicken from the farmer?
    That’ll tell you the difference in joint stability.

    Plus, people that are tall and slim tend to have more shallow joint sockets than those that have a broad, hefty skeleton. And it’s usually the skinny slim ones that do the over stretching because they can. Just be careful.

    Primal Palate wrote on June 30th, 2011
  6. So true Mark! The way animals stretch is fantastic and enviable!

    In general, I´ve found that imitating my dog in just about every facet of life makes me a happier, groky-er person! If I. . .

    exercise like my dog (sprint and play excitedly),
    eat like my dog (protein and fat = yummmmm),
    stretch like my dog (alll the time, and with pleasure),
    sleep like my dog (non-negotiable minimum of 8 hours per night and naps whenever possible),
    sunbathe like my dog,
    try to be as forgiving, cheerful, friendly and happy with the little things in life as my dog is. . .

    then life is good!

    Alex wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • I think your dog theory is one of the more enlightening points ive read on MDA. Also remember Dogs don’t sit around and worry themselves to death about bills and superfluous crap like us humans do.

      Kevin Cowart wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • My dog does all of those things too, except he also tries to fight bigger dogs with long hair! Somehow I don’t think this would go over well in my daily life. I wonder if Grok ever had little-man syndrome?

        K D wrote on July 2nd, 2011
  7. How do I improve my flexibility? I can’t touch my toes without bending my back- keeping a straight back I can’t even get my body into a right angle.

    Harry wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • I think its all about moving more. Doing more. Rest but don’t rest for 8 straight hours unless you are sleeping at night.

      Seriously though. If we don’t make changes then we will keep getting sick.

      Who is going to the the first one to start a squat flash mob in the office and have it video recorded? I want to see it.

      It would bring FUN to an office. LIFE. Workers will be willing to work for that company. If I walked into an interview and saw a bunch of co workers doing a squat then I GUARANTEE you I would be THRILLED of possibly landing a job. I also GUARANTEE you that my interview would go so much smoother. I would just be so damn happy to know that the company has the right idea.

      Are you willing to make a change? To do somethingdifferent? Throw your fears out the window?

      Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • I try to keep active. I am working in as much primalness into my life when my diet is controlled by my school, and I’m made to sit in chairs for lessons all day.
        My legs can now handle standing and moving around for hours on end without pining for a chair to sit on. My body’s still rigid though.

        A viral video sounds good.

        Harry wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • I’m pretty sure foods play a role in our flexibility but I haven’t really pinned it down. I can go from being able to lay my stomach on my legs to barely being able to touch my toes, overnight! This inflexibility is rare for me these days but I think it has something to do with some kind of toxic build up, maybe from eating foods I’m allergic to, maybe alcohol. I really don’t know, but I would encourage you to pay attention to your own body and see if you find any connections there.

          Has anybody else noticed this and given it some thought?

          Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • Peggy -

          I would imagine that it has to do with your omega fatty acid ratios. As your omega 6 intake goes down and your omega 3 intake goes up, your ratio moves closer to the 2:1 ratio. With the reduction in pro-inflammation fatty acids, it’s no wonder you might see that manifest itself as increased flexibility.

          Hal wrote on June 30th, 2011
        • Class? Get up in the middle of class and do 10 push-ups if you can.

          I GUARANTEE you there are hundreds, if not thousands or millions of people out there who would be willing to do the same thing if EVERYONE ELSE was doing it.

          We follow each other. We like trends. Paleo is a hot trend. Oh, better start that! Thankfully its an everlasting trend.

          This just gave me a simple idea… I am going to start a series of flash mobs in Michigan and then around the world. One will be done in a classroom some how some way.

          Flashmob meetup group… who’s in? I’ll start a thread in the forum right now!

          Primal Toad wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Yoga is fantastic because the stretches imitate animals’ movements (up- and down-dog, cat stretch, etc).

      unchatenfrance wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • I was also wondering this. I do stretches with some martial arts workouts, but the goal seems to be different. We do a few dynamic stretches that go through our range of motion, which are to protect the joints, which seems similar to what is being advocated for here. But then we do some static stretches, which we do to improve flexibility over time. I’m not sure there is a better way to improve flexibility, but perhaps it would be better to do the static flexibility stretching after the workout instead.

      Anyone else have thoughts on this?

      Mike wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • @Mike

        I have the same thoughts. It seems to me that the studies mentioned here were looking at pre-workout stretching, which sounds like a bad time for static stretching. But I’ve always done post-workout static stretching, and lately I’ve started doing static stretching in the evenings for all of my joints and have had a very noticeable increase in flexibility/decrease in back and hip pain – daily, noticeable improvements.

        Like some of the other commenters here, I think there is a place for static stretching for increasing flexibility, especially for activities like gymnastics, dance, and martial arts (which, admittedly, are not necessarily Grok-type activities). Just do it as a separate activity, not as a warmup before working out.

        Ash wrote on June 30th, 2011
      • Hey I’ve done martial arts for and kicking for almost 20 years. Thomas Kurtz has the best information on this so check him out.

        Basically you want to do dynamic stretching (ie lift kicks/leg swings) to warm up. Perform your activity, and then do the passive stretching when everything is done as a cool down and to hit muscles and push the “stretch reflex”. Flexibility is neurological, so passive stretching is good for increasing range of motion over time (your brain doesn’t want you going past a certain point at first). And NO, it is not bad for you. Stretching helps keep knots from forming in muscles which in turn lead to musculoskeletal problems (gluts are big for this).

        This article is pretty spot on, but spending time doing passive stretching from a health point of view outside of warm ups (because it is not a warm up) is very beneficial. The more flexible your hamstrings are for example the less stress on your back etc.

        Michael H wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • I would offer this. Stretch every other day after workouts using the following technique: Sit with your legs straight out in front back straight. Bend forward at the stomach keeping the back straight until you feel slight pain. hold for 5 seconds then maintain position and tighten your hamstrings as much as you can hold for 5 seconds then release. When you release you should be able to go slightly more forward, hold that position for 5 seconds then tighten your muscles again while maintaining that stretch then release and repeat one more time. I think this is called PNF stretching… it is very effective. But again you will get the best results, lower risk of injury and not risk performance if you do it after your workouts, particurlarly if you do so after a leg workout.

      Gorm wrote on June 30th, 2011
  8. Thanks for the post, Mark. this makes a lot of sense. I always wondered about those bicyclists who had to stretch before they got on to ride. Why bother? You can do stretches that need to be done while you’re riding. The only difference is when you stop. Lay down on the ground and stretch out. Feels good.

    hiker wrote on June 30th, 2011
  9. What I do and love: Complete body mobility warm up…

    This is what I do for warm ups, takes 5-10 minutes depending on how fast you go through it. This is exhilarating:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0aIuCIpEbk

    Jon wrote on June 30th, 2011
  10. We need to stretch – it’s just that the best time is not right before a performance! Stretching helps us maintain and improve range of motion and helps relieve spinal compression naturally. You say “As for stretching, I like how animals do it” and it is great to incorporate stretches naturally into our lives but we forget or disregard the impulses to stretch and twist. Yoga can be useful in this regard if you enjoy it. Lately I’ve just been doing what Thomas Hanna calls a “7 minute cat stretch” before bed and it had really been helpful. (This sequence is described in his book ‘Somatics’ — search Yogatics Somatics on YouTube for a demo of these moves plus some added ones).

    Kathy wrote on June 30th, 2011
  11. I use to think so, but ever since I started foam rolling before my workouts and doing some stretching for the muscles worked after, I have noticed many benefits.

    Gary Deagle wrote on June 30th, 2011
  12. I do little stretches all the time during the day. When I notice my shoulders are tense I stretch my arms. When my legs feel tired I take a super long stride to stretch them out. Like you said “how animals do it.” Occasionally I feel the need to get more into it and actually sit down on the ground and sit in a stretch, but for the most part just a little twisting, turning, and pulling here and there does the job nicely.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 30th, 2011
  13. At the crossfit gym I go to, We do some warm up stretching (dynamic, which includes constantly varying movement and intensities, but then get down to the business of moving. Afterwards, however, we take a little time, and stretch those muscles and connective tissues out. It seems like a good way to do things, because while stretching might be detrimental to performance, if you’re doing it AFTER you’ve performed, you’re not suffering a performance hit.

    Hal wrote on June 30th, 2011
  14. i completely agree with the idea that a 25 min warmup right before a workout is ridiculous but i think everyone should do a little stretch routine morning and night as a way to improve flexibility and joint lubrication…it wont affect training and is a great energy boost in the morning and a real relaxant at night!

    Jason wrote on June 30th, 2011
  15. as a martial artist of over 20 years and a gymnast for about 10, i can say that ANY stretching is fine, dynamic is definitely better than static, but for sport specific people like myself, both are absolutely required. they each have a specific function pertaining to the movements. i am not a fan of pre-workout stretching or warm-ups of longer than about 5 min though. stretching is especially bad before a martial arts workout as the muscles get that “too loose” feeling and you lose snap in the strikes. as for gymnastics, i dare you to find people more functionally stronger and “fit” than them. i also have no joint problems–and I’m 35. being paleo for several years has helped my performance, but not my flexibility. i agree though that if you aren’t sport specific or very ambitious in that way, stretching beyond what a dog or cat does is pretty much useless.

    Daniel wrote on June 30th, 2011
  16. Static stretches have their place. Almost anyone with low back pain/issues can get some instant relief from some static hamstring and hip fexor stretches (and probably some twists also).

    Doug wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Yup yup! Don’t neglect the piriformis and adductors, tho!

      jared wrote on July 1st, 2011
  17. I find stretching is more of a relaxing measure for me…kinda like yoga but not as intense. I feel more open and that life is a little easier to walk around in after a good stretch! Especially while pregnant!!

    The Real Food Mama wrote on June 30th, 2011
  18. A few summers ago I started doing short trail runs at a park near my house (2 miles or so, lots of rocks and roots and puddles and hills–super fun!) and then one day during the second summer I thought, “Huh, maybe I should be stretching before I do this.”

    So I stretched, and went about 1/4 of a mile before I was hit with the worst calf cramp of MY LIFE. I ended up limping the rest of the way out at a slow walk, and every time I ran after that–for several weeks–the cramp came back. When I gave up on the stretching, the cramps stopped.

    DeeDee wrote on June 30th, 2011
  19. Several other people have mentioned this, but i highly doubt that Grok would have really done what we might consider a warmup or stretch before heavy physical exertion. Then again, he was active, and he didn’t sit in an office all day.

    That said, I have been doing mainsite Crossfit with some scaling for over a year, and I have NEVER warmed up, stretched, or gotten injured. Now if you sit in a desk all day, then you should absolutely warm up first. But I am confident enough in my physical capacity to forgo the pre-WOD routine most people do.

    I am not a super athlete fire-breather either. I couldn’t to pullups when I started, I was weak as crap, and I still have to scale a majority of WODs to just finish them.

    When I max, I usually work up to it, but I still don’t do what would be called a warmup. I start with what is pretty heavy weight for me. Sometimes, with no prior exercise, I just load the bar with what I want to max that day and do it. If I get it awesome, if I don’t, so what? Grok didn’t always make the kill and he often had to attempt it on a moment’s notice.

    myles456 wrote on June 30th, 2011
  20. Nice post Mark, I have been telling this to my clients, and skipping the static stretch since I started training. I always do specific warm-ups for exercises. What is interesting, is this is one area that CW is actually catching up to. The Essentials of Strength and Conditioning by NSCA makes more or less similar recommendations.

    Jaybird wrote on June 30th, 2011
  21. Very worthwhile read – thanks Mark!

    After years of running and being a lazy stretcher my ITB is giving me hassle now.

    The recent addition of a foam roller and making stretching habitual (like an animal) is helping…

    Luke M-Davies wrote on June 30th, 2011
  22. I hate stretching. The best warmup for me before lifting is doing 5 minutes of heavy turkish getups. Gets all the body parts moving in the right direction.

    Stretching when running doesn’t work for me.

    Brian Flynn wrote on June 30th, 2011
  23. eko wrote on June 30th, 2011
  24. Love the nod to KStarr. Mobility is essential to me to get the right amount of movement back to squat, run, snatch etc. (Getting older takes the suppleness away a bit) I only do the amount needed to get myself ready to start warming up that motion. I do my major mobility work either after my workout of the day or on my rest days.

    Nate wrote on June 30th, 2011
  25. I mainly perform joint rotations from the neck down to the ankles and a light warm up before exercise. If I’ve worked all day prior to exercising I don’t anything because I’m already warm and loose. Also, I’ve read before that muscles work best in a contracted state so to stretch them prior to working them is counter productive and could lead to injury. That might explain all of the pulled groins and hamstrings I see sprinters getting.

    Kelly wrote on June 30th, 2011
  26. I’ll disagree with the general angst towards static stretching. Most of us are not able to emulate Grok’s lifestyle enough to negate the benefits of static stretching. We don’t walk for 4-8 hours a day hunting and gathering so we’re not naturally loose and limber.
    To my way of thinking, athletic performance should be secondary to maintaining proper muscular flexibility. I’ll take 10 minutes preworkout to stretch my hamstrings, calves, glutes and hip flexors before a heavy squat workout because I know that it helps prevent my lumbar spine from “tucking” at the bottom of the squat.
    All of these tests look for boosts in athletic performance, I’d like to see some (well) done studies that look at injury prevention.
    If you don’t believe me try MWOD for a month or two and see if you don’t feel better.

    Jason wrote on June 30th, 2011
  27. My hamstrings are way too tight, and I’ve been doing yoga for a while now. No static forward bends? I can’t do a proper L-sit I’m so tight, and it bothers me. Advice to open the hammies please, Mark. For males this seems like a prevalent issue.

    James wrote on June 30th, 2011
    • Look into pnf stretching.

      Gorm wrote on July 1st, 2011
  28. I love the way the warmups are done at my friendly local Crossfit gym. For each day of the week there’s a pre-determined warmup ritual that includes activities that stretch your muscles but also build strength. (dislocates, band-assisted pull-ups, box step-ups). Fun, and not boring!

    The coaches DO make us stretch as the end though. I’m tired enough then I don’t mind the 5-10 minutes of down time!

    Anne wrote on June 30th, 2011
  29. Does anyone on this site do gyrokinesis or gyrotonic?

    Sara wrote on June 30th, 2011
  30. I’m with daddy Grok, hang and squat. That’s it for stretching here, or what ever spirit moves me. No regimented routines. Blah blah blah!!!

    Dasbutch wrote on June 30th, 2011
  31. i think about the logic of stretching a rubber band and the range of motion it takes to do the same work as before it is stretched. muscles tense and contract to create motion, stretching makes tendons longer, hence creating the need to work harder to tense and contract for the same work.

    Dasbutch wrote on June 30th, 2011
  32. mobilitywod changed my life. Ah what a cliche’ but true nonetheless.

    Wyatt wrote on June 30th, 2011
  33. The key: warmups should be intuitive. Let your body know what is coming, it doesn’t like surprises either. Let those muscles warm up and perform dynamic stretches that have a full range of motion. Awesome post!

    Jonathon's Fitness wrote on June 30th, 2011
  34. Go read up about ‘Active Isolated Stretching’. Did a course a while back and really works well! only down side is that you actually need someone to help with certain stretches.

    Areta wrote on June 30th, 2011
  35. so where does that leave exercises whose USP is Stretching ? Like Yoga or Pilates ?There are so many Studies which vouch for the beneficial effects of Yoga .

    varsha wrote on July 1st, 2011
  36. If you’re interested in quality stretching, check out Tom Kurz. Not that far from Mark’s stand.

    Tomasz wrote on July 1st, 2011
  37. Since I do a lot of intensive and explosive training, I have to warm up for a while. I agree with the intuitive warmup and doing lighter load than the actual workout, those work really well for me.
    And stretching every day several times a day ( like cats, I love that you said that ). It is the best way.
    Great post Mark!

    Tatianna wrote on July 1st, 2011
  38. There is a meta-analysis in MSSE 2004 (Thacker et al), reviewing 361 studies, showing pre-activity stretching does NOT reduce injury potential.

    Brian wrote on July 1st, 2011
  39. I know when I start feeling a bit tight after bending over seeing patients all day, I’ll do a few grok squats in between patients. I add a little twist to really stretch the QLs and intercostal muscles. It really helps me get through the day! Stretching isn’t needed as much if you live a 100% hunter gatherer lifestyle, but how many of us can claim that?

    jared wrote on July 1st, 2011
  40. Great read, I played college football and used to absolutely hate “warming up” I felt like I was using up energy I needed for the game and would sneak away to drink water. Now I’m a crossfitter and warm up and stretch when I feel like I need extra mobility in my shoulders or hips, but don’t subscribe to extended roll out sessions every single time out.

    Masterlock wrote on July 1st, 2011

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