The Best Times to Stretch for Your Workout

Sharon Gould Northbrook Illinois
Should you stretch before or after your workout? Like lots of fitness advice, this remains hotly contested. Flexibility plays an important role in your overall health, and especially in connection to your exercise routine. There are distinctions to what stretching routines you should perform at different points in your workout.while some people may find that they’re opposed to the idea of stretching, while others swear by it that it helps to prevent various injuries. 

Before we dive into the best times to stretch, let’s talk about why we stretch. Stretching keeps your muscles flexible and enables them to perform their entire range of motion. A lack of flexibility means that your muscles won’t extend to their full length, leading to an increased risk of muscle strain, joint pain, and injury. There are actually many different types of stretches, from static, dynamic, passive stretching, and more, all of which are better suited for separate times in your workout. Static stretches involve striking a pose and standing still for about 30 seconds and are probably what many people are most used to when “stretches” come to mind. There’s also dynamic stretching, which involves running a muscle through its range of motion 10-20 times.

Contrary to what you might think, you shouldn’t perform static stretching before you exercise, especially if your planned workout works the lower body. Static stretching before your muscles are warm won’t do much in terms of preventing injury. A comprehensive study discovered that static stretches done alone before a workout actually led to decreases in strength, power, and explosive performance. In short, static stretching won’t prevent injuries but can lead to bad workouts.

Instead, it’s recommended that you do an active warmup for 10 to 15 minutes before your workout. Activities such as jumping jacks, a brisk walk, or jogging in place will get your heart pumping and warm up your muscles to prepare you for strenuous activity. Your active warmup will include dynamic stretching, and while you may be stretching before your workout, it won’t be in a way that you’re used to doing. Unlike static stretches, dynamic stretches decrease your risk of injury by getting your muscles properly prepared for exercise and help them to achieve full functionality. Need ideas for some dynamic stretches? Try some leg swings and walking lunges before cardio, or do arm circles before lifting upper body weights.

Static stretching can still be beneficial, but it’s best to wait until after your workout to do these. While it won’t help make you any less sore, research suggests that stretching helps improve blood flow to the limbs you engage. This, in turn, helps aid in recovery and can calm down your nervous system.
Sharon Gould Northbrook Illinois

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