Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you feel like you should be stretching more. Or maybe you feel like it’s unclear why you’re stretching in the first place and what kind of benefit it will have. Well, I’ve got some good news for us both: how you stretch and when you stretch is more important than spending more time stretching…

Stretch Goals

Before we can talk about what you should and shouldn’t do in regards to stretching, we must first understand your intentions.
Here are few questions to consider: are you looking to…

  • Become more flexible?
  • Prevent injury when exercising?
  • Perform better when playing a sport?
  • Lessen pain in a specific area?
  • Improve general health?

Keep your goals in mind

Side note: If your goal is to become a Cirque du Soleil performer or an elite gymnast, stop reading this and go stretch for the rest of the day!

2 Basic Types of Stretches:

  1. Static: a stretch to lengthen a stiff muscle by taking it passively to its end range for a prolonged period of time.
  2. Dynamic: a stretch used to prime a muscle for activity or sport by using momentum to take it throughout its full range of motion

Should You Stretch Before or After Exercise?

Most people I talk to perform static stretches before they work out, run, or play a sport. They say that it loosens them up with the belief that it lowers their risk of injury. I did this for years. Every coach I had since I was a kid gave the team static stretches to do before playing. Yours likely did the same.

Well, you may want to brace yourself for this… Surprisingly, research suggests static stretching prior to exercise or sport shows NO incidence of reducing injury rates. Additionally, static stretching prior to exercise can actually lower your physical performance – causing a 12% reduction in maximal voluntary contraction of muscles– due to its inhibiting effects. Think about it, when you stretch a muscle, it relaxes. Why would you do this right before you are going to do a physically demanding activity? So you can blame your less-than-elite performance on your ill-advised coaches. Kind of bums you out to think about it, doesn’t it? You could have made the pros!

Oh well…

So, what to do instead? Rather than relaxing your muscles before exercise, you need to warm them up to get them ready. Dynamic stretching should be utilised as a warm-up prior to exercise. Yes, dynamic stretching can actually improve performance by increasing blood flow to muscles, the speed of nerve impulses, and oxygen delivery while increasing flexibility and force of muscle contraction. With all of its performance benefits, though, even including dynamic stretching as a warm-up does not necessarily lower your risk of injury.

Here’s a list of a few good dynamic stretches you can utilise:

  • Knee to chest: walk slowly and with each step grab and pull the knee to your chest for 2 seconds.
  • Butt-kickers: jog in place or forward as you kick your feet up behind you
  • Deep walking lunges: lunge forward with a big step while leaning your upper body toward the ground
  • Lunge twists: twist the upper body to the side of the forward lunging leg
  • Wind-mills: stand with feet spread wide apart, arms outstretched to your sides, reach the right hand down to touch the left toes, then back to starting position. Alternate sides.
  • High kicks: keeping the leg straight, kick it forward so the toes touch the outstretched opposite hand. Alternate sides.

Before you give up on static stretching altogether, turns out it may have some redeeming value after all…

After your workout is a good time to perform static stretches. Following exercise, muscles are stiff and remain stiff for up to 1-4 days. My recommendation would be to stretch statically immediately following exercise to return the muscle to its pre-exercise length and prevent it from getting stiffer. A static stretch should be held for at least 30 sec. and repeat it 3 times. 6 days a week to increase flexibility and 3 days a week to maintain flexibility.

TO RECAP: Warm-up including dynamic stretching pre-exercise Static stretching post-exercise



Reference: Michael Curtis