How to Stretch Properly Before and After Workouts

The chances are that you’ve been stretching ever since you started your gym classes in school. Many of us were taught in school and by coaches that all exercise routines should begin with some vigorous stretching on the spot, as we were told that this would loosen up our muscles for a workout. But, according to experts, static stretching prior to exercise could be not only counter-productive – but also potentially dangerous. The traditional stretches you learned as a child – such as when you’d reach over to touch your toes – cause muscles to tighten, rather than relax – the exact opposite to what you need for physical activity.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be stretching at all, however – when done correctly, stretching can increase flexibility, lead to enhanced physical fitness, and better bodily awareness. The right stretching routine offers:

  • Improved ability to learn new movements
  • Reduced injury risk to tendons, muscles, and joints
  • Reduced soreness and tension in muscles
  • Increased suppleness and better movement
  • Better mental focus and physical relaxation

So, according to scientific research, what is the best way to stretch before and after your workout?

Stretching Pre-Workout – Dynamic Stretches


The first thing to understand about stretching before a workout, is that your stretches are not the same as a warm-up. In order to avoid injury and improve your range of motion, you will need to stretch – but it’s important to do this when your muscles are warm – not cold. You should always begin with some mild aerobic exercise to get your blood moving before you start your stretches – this could be brisk walking or gentle jogging for a couple of minutes before stretching. Warming up your body improves the flow of blood, increasing the temperature within the muscles and allowing for the collagen fibers within to become more elastic.

Once you have warmed up, you should be engaging in dynamic stretches – not static. In simple terms, a routine of dynamic stretching includes a series of controlled, slow movements, instead of staying still and holding a pose. Your routine may include flowing movements such as those used in yoga, simple movements like hip and arm rotations, or walking exercises. Although studies haven’t confirmed it yet, numerous experts agree that dynamic stretching is the best option for a workout.

Stretching Post-Workout – Static Stretches

Static stretching before a workout can harm your exercise routine, decrease your strength, and lead to increased risk of injury. But, that doesn’t mean that static stretching doesn’t have a place within your regimen. Static stretching following your workout can help to enhance the recovery process, reduce the chances of suffering from muscle strain, and loosen up your muscles and joints. Perhaps the primary goal of cooling down after exercising is to assist the body in relaxing and returning to its normal state of rest. Static stretching can result in decreased muscle tension, and enhanced relaxation, making it the ideal choice for a cool-down technique.

When you’re lifting weights or working out, your muscles contract. Even when you’re finished with your workout, your muscles will remain contracted for some time, and recovery comes in the form of those muscles returning to their natural length. Those who avoid static stretching after a workout may be actively slowing down their process of recuperation, and reducing the benefits that their exercise would otherwise have given them.

Understanding Dynamic and Static Stretching

Dynamic stretching involves movements that often resemble the motions a body makes in the midst of sporting activities and athletics. Static stretching, on the other hand, involves stretching the muscles while the body is still, and at rest. Most experts agree that dynamic stretching is the ideal option for the beginning of an exercise program – following a proper workout, and static stretching is good for after your workout. While dynamic stretching prepares you for athletic events by mimicking sporting motions, static stretches cool your body and improve flexibility after exercise.

It’s safe to say that stretching is a vital part of improving your flexibility and enhancing your workout, but it’s crucial to perform the right stretches at the right times to get the maximum benefits.

What are your favorite dynamic stretches to do before a workout, and your best static stretches for a post-workout cool down? Let us know in the comments!


This entry was posted in Fitness, News and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *