Improve Your Mobility: How Long You Should Stretch For
Before And After Workout Stretching Routines
In this article we will take a look at different types of stretching; how long you should stretch for, how it can help you improve your mobility, increase your performance and reduce your risk of injury. We will also give you stretching routines that you can do before and after your workouts.
When you stretch a muscle, it increases your range of motion by decreasing stiffness of the muscle tissues.
There are several stretching techniques you can use, but the most popular ones are dynamic and static stretching:
- Dynamic stretching: it is a controlled movement into stiffness. We often call it warming up (e.g. arm swings, torso rotation...) and do it before our workouts.
- Static stretching: this is when you hold a stretch for a certain period of time (e.g. standing quadriceps stretch, forward fold...). We usually call it cooling down and do it after our workouts.
More info on the benefits of static and dynamic stretching.
Stretching has many benefits including: it increases mobility which results in better performance, decreases risk of injury, improves posture... However, most people tend to get confused about which type of stretching you should do before and after your workout.
Dynamic stretching has been proven to be very efficient before workout, since it increases the blood flow going to the targeted area, which will result in better mobility. Dynamic stretches can also be done as a morning routine to help you get your body ready for the day.
Static stretching has often been used after our workouts, which helps increase your flexibility and increase blood flow, which may reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
Some research has shown that using static stretching before a workout could decrease your overall performance. However, it's not the static stretching that is the problem, but how long you stretch for. Based on data, there is no decrease in performance when you maintain a static stretching for less than 30 seconds before a workout. However, once the static stretch is done for more that 45 seconds, that's when you start to see a decrease in strength and speed.
Moreover, static stretching is a time-dependent task. You should avoid trying to do a static stretch if your muscles are cold.
Therefore, you can use static stretching before your workouts, but it should be done after your dynamic stretching and you should perform static stretches that last less than 30 seconds to avoid a decrease in performance.
This depends on how tight you feel and what kind of workout you are about to do. As a rule of thumb, warming up for 5-10 minutes before your workout and stretching for 5-10 minutes after your workout will help you increase your mobility.
Here's how your training sessions should look like when you include stretching before and after:
- Warm up: 5-10 minutes
- Dynamic stretching to warm up all the muscle groups that will be used during your workout. Aim for 5 minutes or more, 10-30 seconds per exercise
- Static stretching for really tight areas (e.g. hips, ankles, upper back...). Aim for 5 minutes or more, 10-30 seconds per exercise.
- Your workout
- Cool down: 5-10 minutes
- Static stretching for your entire body and especially the muscles you've targeted during your workout. Aim for 5 minutes or more, 45 seconds per exercise.
If you've ever attended a yoga class, you will often hear instructor tell you two important things:
- "Remember to breath": Proper breathing is important to get a deeper stretching. It increases blood flow throughout the body, relaxes you and helps to get rid of lactic acid and other by-products of exercise. So don't hold your breath.
- "Try to get a deeper stretch at every exhale": It is important to stretch taking slow, relaxed breaths when you stretch, trying to exhale as the muscle is stretching. A good way to breathe is to inhale slowly through the nose, expanding the abdomen; hold the breath, then exhaling through the nose again and try to go deeper into the stretch. This rhythmic contraction and expansion is key during stretching because it increases blood flow to the stretched muscles, improves their elasticity and increases the rate at which lactic acid is purged from them.
Don't hold your breath while doing static stretching. Breath in through the nose, hold the stretch for a moment then go deeper into that stretch and repeat.
- Shoulder rotation: 30 secs
- Arm swing: 30 secs
- Torso rotation: 30 secs
- Hip airplane (right side): 30 secs
- Hip airplane (left side): 30 secs
- Butt kicks: 30 secs
- Alternate hip rotation: 30 secs
- World's greatest stretch (right side): 30 secs
- World's greatest stretch (left side): 30 secs
- Calf dorsiflexion (right side): 30 secs
- Calf dorsiflexion (left side): 30 secs
- Gorilla squat: 30 secs
- Standing forward fold: 45 secs
- Lunge hip flexor lateral stretch (right side): 45 secs
- Lunge hip flexor lateral stretch (left side): 45 secs
- Upward stretch: 45 secs
- Upward dog: 45 secs
- Hands behind the neck: 45 secs
- Behind back pull down stretch: 45 secs
- Pigeon pose (right side): 45 secs
- Pigeon pose (left side): 45 secs
- Lying quadriceps stretch (right side): 45 secs
- Lying quadriceps stretch (left side): 45 secs
- Lying forward fold: 45 secs
Here are the stretching routines:
- Dynamic stretching is a controlled movement into stiffness (e.g. arm swings, torso rotation...)
- Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up before your workout; 10-30 seconds or more per movement.
- Static stretching is when you hold a stretch for a certain period of time (e.g. standing quadriceps stretch, forward fold...)
- Static stretching is a great way to cool down after your workout; 45 seconds or more per movement.
- Static stretching can also be used before a workout, but it should be done after you've warmed up your muscles and should be performed up to 30 seconds.
- Try to dynamic stretch for 5-10 minutes (or more) before your workouts.
- Try to static stretch for 5-10 minutes (or more) after your workouts.
- Don't hold your breath while doing static stretching. Breath in through the nose, hold the stretch for a moment then go deeper into that stretch and repeat.
- Try our stretching routines.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology "STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY"
- Abdel-aziem, Amr; Draz, Amira; Mosaad, Dalia "The long-term effects of static stretching at different times of day on hamstring peak torque and flexibility in trained individuals"
- Bandy WD1, Irion JM, Briggler M. "The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles.
- McHugh MP1, Cosgrave CH. "To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance."