preparation for elliptical machine?
March 11, 2007 9:02 PM   Subscribe

What kind of stretches should I do before/after being on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes?

I never actually learned how to stretch and I am realizing that I should probably do so before (or after?) working out because my knees feel sort of weird sometimes when I go to the gym.

What should I do? How should I do it?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite has a really complete rundown of how to stretch and exercise every muscle in the body.
posted by who else at 9:46 PM on March 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Before I hurt my back (see the thread directly before this one), I followed the advice of the trainer at my gym, which worked fine (until I did something stupid and unrelated).

That was:

1) Warm up on the stationary bike or treadmill for 10 to 15 minutes.
2) Stretch for 15-20 minutes on the mats. There's a card on the wall that gives you about 40 example stretches -- I'd usually do about 15 or 20 of them, covering all muscle groups.
3) Hit the elliptical machines and free weights for 30 to 40 minutes. Alternate muscle groups on different days.
4) Back to the bike or the treadmill for 25 minutes or so.

That routine 3 times a week got me in pretty great shape; weight loss and general fitness was my goal though, not muscle-size or anything.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:00 PM on March 11, 2007

I train with competition athletes and they all advise against static stretching before exercise. Apparently it increases the chances of injury.

You'd be better off having a light warm-up and some dynamic stretching before you hit the elliptical.

Save the static stretching for afterwards.

Seconding for technical details.
posted by the cuban at 3:59 AM on March 12, 2007

follow stavros's advice
posted by caddis at 4:57 AM on March 12, 2007

As the cuban says: Studies indicate stretching before you start can lead to injury. Just warm-up well and then stretch at the end.
posted by dame at 6:29 AM on March 12, 2007

One of the nice things about ellipticals is how low-impact of a work out it is. I do 35 minute workouts on one three times a week and stretch afterwards.
posted by phixed at 7:10 AM on March 12, 2007

Response by poster: Well, the problem is, I don't know how to warm up. y work out is - after doing abs and pushups at home, I walk to the gym (5 minutes from my house) and get on the elliptical machine.

I don't really have time for an hour workout aside from the 30 minutes on the elliptical machine but I know that I need to do something before starting to run (slowly, quickly, however) on the machine because my knees feel like they need some sort of stretch.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 8:07 AM on March 12, 2007

Just take it easy for the first five to ten minutes or so, then ramp up the intensity. Stretch right after you work out. Here are some typical stretches. Thirty seconds on each one is better than not strectching at all. Like others have said, stretching before working out is best avoided. Sometimes I feel overly tight in my calves or quads and I do a very gentle 20 second or so stretch prrior to running or before I am fully warmed up. I usually try and wait until warmed up though, then I stop stretch and then continue with the run. If you have stretched properly after the last workout you shouldn't be feeling like you need to stretch before this one.
posted by caddis at 8:33 AM on March 12, 2007

Best answer: My trainer also said no stretching prior to workout (she said cold muscles are taut and snap, warm muscles are gooey and don't get as hurt).

She said get on the treadmill for about 5 minutes or so at a speed/inclination that will make me lightly sweat. I often walk to the gym, and if I'm lightly sweating when I arrive, I tend to just hop on the exercise machine and skip the additional warmup. After that, work out. After that, stretch. I have certain stretches, but I wouldn't want to share them bc I'm not sure if they're correct. They feel good, though, so I keep doing them. Trainers are often willing to show you something like that for free, so you might want to ask them.

She also said that I should stretch every day because the benefits of stretching don't last more than about 48 hours. She said ppl who do yoga once a week and think they're getting enough stretching are fooling themselves. And she said stretching is good for increased range of motion, injury prevention, and anti-aging generally, so it's worth making extra time and incorporating it into your workout.

This site might be helpful. Starts with a lecture on the benefits of stretching, but then gives examples of good stretches, including ones that presumably impact the knees (e.g. quads). This site should be helpful - goes through a whole bunch of knee stretches.

Weight lifting might also help your knees. I was told to work on my abductors and adductors, and to do gluteous exercises, like those chairs where you can lift some weights using your legs. Also, cross training is good bc you're probably strengthening some muscles on the eliptical while others are left behind, creating an imbalance.
posted by Amizu at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2007

Best answer: If your knees are bothering you, also make sure that your alignment on the elliptical machine is good. Toes pointed forward, knees pointed forward, weight evenly distributed over the entire bottom of your foot instead of all on the outside arch or all on the inside arch (or all on the heel or all on the toe, though that may change over the course of the movement).

Stretching (as everyone said, after the workout) may help release the hamstrings or other muscles that are pulling on your knees, but proper alignment is probably most likely to protect the knee joints themselves. (I had weird ankle/knee problems that pretty much went away once I stopped walking -- and exercising -- like a ballerina, with my toes turned way out, and paid attention to how I was standing on my feet. Many yoga teachers have confirmed that the best way to protect one's knees is by keeping them pointing forward over forward-pointing toes as much as possible.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:02 AM on March 12, 2007

"My trainer also said no stretching prior to workout (she said cold muscles are taut and snap, warm muscles are gooey and don't get as hurt)."

That doesn't make any sense. Why would you not stretch, if you've got cold muscles which are going to "snap", and you push them hard, that will hurt. If you warm them up, stretch them out, then push them, they won't hurt.

I've always heard you get a little warmed up with light walking (5 min), then stretch (no bouncing!), then you do your hardcore workout. Then stretch a bit after cooldown.
posted by jesirose at 10:00 PM on March 12, 2007

Stretching is over rated and more likely to result in injury than not stretching at all.
posted by srboisvert at 11:04 AM on March 13, 2007

Response by poster: I followed some of the suggestions of those who I marked as best answer when I last went to the gym and have a much better gym experience. Thank you!
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2007

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