Health Blog

To stretch or not to stretch?


As we are approaching the fall season and continuing with our year round activities, warming up in the colder weather is just as important as staying cool was for the summer heat. Staying warm and warming up is more than just putting on another layer of clothes or wearing gloves. Some people think that “increasing the time that you stretch on a cold day will warm you up more.” But this thought is showing to be completely false.

What we do know from research is that static stretching is not an effective mode of warming up and can actually predispose us to injury. According to a 2006 Army research paper, “For tasks requiring power and agility, the results suggest that a dynamic warm up might offer performance benefits not found with static stretching or no warm up.”1 The study further states that “warm up activities should…include dymanic, progressive movements that mimic the goal activity with out inducing fatigue.”1

In another research paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (2008) it was found that static stretches significantly reduced the participant’s power. So what would a proper warm up look like with out performing the static stretches (hamstring, calf and quads) that we grew up with and were told were important to do before any activity?

Here are a few ideas according to WebMD2 and Bill Holcomb, PhD, professor of athletic training at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas:

  • Goose-step march: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you, alternating as you walk with your normal stride length. While others may think you’re doing a Monty Python skit, it is an effective hamstring stretch.
  • Knee lifts: As you’re jogging or walking, bring knees up toward your chest. For a variation, as your right knee comes up, twist the lifted leg gently to the left and your upper body gently to the right for a spinal twist. Repeat on each side as you jog or walk (warning: you may be mistaken for a Rockette).
  • Butt-kick: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. It’s not punishment; it stretches the quadriceps.

Do several repetitions of 30 seconds each at your own pace. The point is to do the movements in a controlled way. Stop if you get tired so you still have energy for your workout.

Try it for yourself and see how you feel…keep active as “MOVEMENT IS LIFE.”

BrianPower-Casual webBrian Power, PT, DPT, DMT, FAAOMPT, Cert. SMT
Physical Therapist
MTI Physical Therapy – Fremont and First Hill
Brian is a co-owner and Vice President of MTI Physical Therapy. He has considerable post-graduate education and experience and specializes in orthopaedic manual therapy. He practices this specialty in orthopaedic manual therapy to rehabilitate a variety of extremity and spinal injuries and those experiencing chronic pain. His clinical experience has also included headache/migraine management, TMJ dysfunction and fibromyalgia.


1. McMillan, DJ; Moore, JF et al. “Dynamic vs. Static Stretching Warm Up: The Effect of Power and Agility Performance., Journal of Stretch and Conditioning Research, 2006, 20(3),492-99.

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