At the Shaolin Temple we never stretch first, we always start with a gentle warm up and when the muscles feel warm and loose we stretch. We do two types of stretching: static and dynamic. The Shaolin dynamic stretching we do is the five basic kicks, and the five stances which open the hips and warm up the leg muscles. We believe that it's only by doing these stretches that we can get truly flexible. We've stretched this way and warmed up our muscles like this for thousands of years, and if you train with my DVDs then you'll be doing it this way. In fact, I didn't know there was another way until I came to the UK.
Yesterday, a student showed me a book about the science of exercise, which has a chapter on stretching. Latest research shows that the way Shaolin Disciples warm up and stretch is the way to get maximum performance from our workout. There's a belief in the West that stretching before a warm up is good but research has shown that it has no benefit and doesn't bolster performance. The other myth is the only way to flexibility is through static stretching. To quote from the book: "Dynamic stretching may be the most important element of a warm up... it involves moving and waking the tissues that will be called upon during the subsequent exercise." It's also the way to become more flexible.
This way of preparing for a workout is not just for martial artists but all athletes.
For more information on Shaolin Training please visit shifuyanlei.com