Stretching vs. Movement Preparation

Is there a difference between stretching and movement preparation?

Yes, there is… and a significant one.

Stretching is the sustained elongation of a muscle or group of muscles.

Movement preparation is the dynamic use of a muscle or muscle group in a short and limited range of motion movement.

Recent studies have raised questions about the effectiveness of pre-exercise stretching as such an effort may actually decrease the amount of power output a muscle can produce.  The stretching creates small tears in the muscle fibers which cause a repairing action within the tissues thereby reducing the muscle’s ability to generate power.  Think of this as dividing a muscle’s attention between two activities: repair and force production.  Movement preparation uses short, quick motions to provide a signal to muscles that it’s time to get moving.  These dynamic movements do not damage muscle fibers and therefore do not cause the muscles to begin repairing torn fibers.  So, the muscle is ready to apply its full and undivided attention to the task at hand: generating power.

The bottom line: do two or three minutes of movement preparation to warm up before getting on the bike and engage in several minutes of active stretching immediately following a bike ride or workout.

Following are examples of a few standard movement preparation poses to use before your workout and several standard stretches you can use after your workout.  Please note that movement preparation poses and stretches are to be done slowly and carefully in a fluid motion (with no bouncing) and avoiding pain.

Neck and shoulders


Upper and lower back


Lower body



About The Author

Aaron MTB Nov 2014 SmallAaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita – Children of War Foundation Regional Amateur Team.  A 28-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.

Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work.  He has even been on the race podium a few times.

Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at:

(c) 2015




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One Comment

  1. Dulap says:

    Taijiquan would be a perfect “warm-up” for movement preparation.

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