Is it Bad to Stretch Cold Muscles?
In a cold state, the muscles are stiff, and stretching will be restricted. The chances of injuring our muscles are greater if we stretch them when cold. All scientists agree that trying to stretch before the nerves wake up can lead to contracted muscles that would cause a hindrance for the rest of the workout as well as a chance of damaging them.
What Happens When You Stretch Cold Muscles?
Before we discuss what happens, let us first understand what cold muscles are. When we say cold muscles, the meaning is literally the same. When we exercise, our blood flow increases, and that warms up the muscles. In contrast, when we are in a stationary mode (the movement is minimal), the blood flow decreases, and that leaves the muscles in a cold state.
In this cold state, the muscles get stiff, and movement is strained. Thus, when we stretch, the muscles experience tension and activate the protective mechanism that scientists have named a stretch reflex. This reflex causes the muscles to stop stretching and hence causes a hindrance in our exercise regime as well. Simply speaking, this can be explained by saying that cold muscles lack water, and hence the neurological system isn’t fully active. When the muscles get stretched, they receive the message to activate the protective mechanism, and instead of flexibility, they contract. This leads to restricted stretching and affects other movements too. If we still keep on stretching, the muscles might suffer damage, having to go against the message by the nervous system.
Eric Owens, a musculoskeletal expert, says:
“If you [stretch] with your body in a cold state before your nerves are awake and your blood is pumping, it causes everything to tighten. So, you’re asking your muscles to work out in a contracted state so that they’re going to have a weak and decreased performance.”
Consider the example of stretching a cold dough. It is hard and doesn’t stretch well, but the same dough will stretch really well when it is warmed. Likewise, when muscles are not flexed in a while, they are cold because blood flow is slower.
Is It Safe To Stretch Cold Muscles?
Now that we know what happens when we stretch cold muscles let us discuss its effects.
Everything cold is stiff and stretching them causes tension that might ruin the texture. This is the law of contraction and extraction. If we want to pull something without causing harm to its elasticity, then we need to warm it up to provide the required flexibility for stretching.
Similarly, when our bodies are not active, the blood flow is much slower, and the warming agent for our bodies is the blood. Thus, the muscles are “cold.” In this state, if we try to stretch our muscles, the elasticity is much affected, and the response is not as required. When the muscles are cold, the desire to stretch them is greater, but the results can be drastic.
Stretching means we are commanding our muscles to lengthen; in a cold state, this would mean less elasticity and more significant strain. This becomes the reason for more pressure than required, and the muscles become tense and strained instead of relaxed. If we keep trying to stretch them, the chances of damaging the muscle fibers become greater.
All trainees and experts claim that stretching the muscles in a cold state is the worst thing we can do to them. Instead of relaxing, they become taunt and can cause more significant harm than good. Thus, stretching cold muscles should be avoided at all costs.
According to our muscle physiology, they can stretch and contract. This is also called elasticity. Like everything elastic, extending our muscles beyond their lengthening ability increases the chances of snapping. When the muscles are not softened by increased blood flow (warm muscles), they will suffer damage.
Can Stretching Damage Muscles?
Stretching is an essential part of workouts, but why is that? Let us examine why stretching is so important.
Importance Of Stretching
We have already examined the fact that our muscle physiology is such that it allows various lengths of flexing muscles. This allows a range of movements. When we do not stretch our muscles, they become tight and eventually shorten. This causes weakness of muscles, and then, when we call them for activity, they become weak and can’t perform the required function. We call this state stiffness.
Benefits Of Stretching
Now that we know the importance of stretching let us discuss what benefits it brings us.
All workouts include various stretches. These stretches are to be done once our body has warmed up, of course. This is because:
- Stretching improves the range of motion. It prevents the muscles from getting weak and stiff, and flexibility helps in improving motion.
- We can improve our posture with the help of stretching. If the muscles of our back and hip become tight, it will cause poor posture. By stretching these muscles, we can actually improve our posture. This, in turn, helps prevent backaches that are caused because of poor posture.
- We can prevent muscle soreness and injury by stretching muscles. If we keep our muscles flexible by stretching them, there is a lesser chance of them getting sore. Also, flexible muscles are in less danger of suffering injuries due to the flexibility.
Now that we have established the benefits and importance of stretching, we will discuss whether or not stretching muscles can cause damage.
Technically, stretching muscles is an important part of workouts. However, this should be done in moderation. As in every case, too much of anything is harmful. Never overstretch your muscles. Warming up your body before you start stretching is a good idea. Stretching while the muscles are cold will not just spoil your workout but can cause considerable damage as well.
Simply speaking, stretching muscles is important. Try to flex them as much as you can but with safety measures. Never overstretch, and never try to do them before warming up. Working out is important; it keeps our body healthy. Stretching keeps our muscles strong. In order to have a completely flexible body, it is good to keep up with the workout regime. All of the above explanations point to the fact that it is not safe to stretch our muscles while cold. It would help if we softened them by warming up. When the blood is pumped through light exercises, the muscles become warmer and more flexible. This is the time to stretch our muscles, as they are warmer and more flexible, and the chances of straining them are minimum.