When should you stretch and why you should stretch

A lot of people do static stretches before they workout, usually when I ask people why they say they do it to prevent injuries. Well, unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding. Stretching before a workout has not been shown to reduce the chance of getting injured. On the other hand, static stretching has been shown to reduce the power that your muscles produce after the stretching routine. This can decrease one’s ability to perform at their highest level during a workout.  While this may not make a huge difference to the average person, it is still advisable to perform your stretching routine after your workout rather than before.

Stretching after your workout is a vital part of maintaining and improving your mobility. After working out your muscles become tight and shortened. If you consistently workout the same muscles and don’t stretch then those muscles will likely stay in a shortened state. What this does is it creates muscular imbalances which can impair mobility and in some cases stability. By stretching after your workout you are able to elongate the muscles that were just shortened during a workout. This can help prevent muscular imbalances, maintain mobility, and could potentially reduce the amount of time it takes to recover from a workout.

After you workout, you ideally want to stretch the muscles that you just worked on. This helps them to relax back into an elongated state. In general, when stretching you should aim to hold a stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute. A thorough stretching routine should probably take about 10 minutes.

What should I do before I workout?

Before working out it is advisable to perform some type of warm up. A warm-up generally consists of what we call dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is different from static stretching as the goal is not to elongate the muscle but rather to get blood flowing to the muscle that you are able to work out. When you perform a static stretch you hold a position for a short time period. When you perform a dynamic stretch you are performing a repetitive action for a certain amount of repetitions. An example of a dynamic stretch would be walking lunges or arm swings.

Dynamic stretching helps to get blood flowing to the area that is about to be used. This actually may prevent injury and improve performance. When you do dynamic stretches you are gently activating the muscles that are going to be used. In addition to improving blood flow, you are also working the joints through their ranges of motion. This helps to get the joints mobile so that you can perform your workout with optimal form.