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Stretching Before Or After A Workout?

Discover the benefits of dynamic and static stretching.

Most people don't stretch enough. Even if they do, they would barely spend 2 minutes stretching after a 1 hour lifting session. I've done it too.

Indeed, stretching after being tired from intense workout is the last thing we want to do. However, stretching increases flexibility, boosts blood flow to the muscles among many other benefits. In this article we will help you answer the question should you stretch before or after a workout?

Dynamic stretching and static stretching

It exists two types of stretching:

  • Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching is an active stretching with a controlled movement. This type of stretching has shown to improve athletic performance if they're done before a workout, as part of your warm up. (e.g. torso rotation).
  • Static Stretching: Static stretching is when you hold a specific position for a certain period of time. This type of stretching should be done after a workout. (e.g. forward bend). It can also be performed before a workout, but you will need to be warmed up and hold a position for about 15-30 seconds.

Dynamic stretches before a workout

We all perform warm ups before our workout because we know it has many benefits; if you don't, you should start now. Aim for a 5-10 minutes warm up to help you get ready for your workout. It seems basic but some people tend to skip this fundamental.

In fact, dynamic stretches before a workout:

  • Increases blood flow.
  • Reduces chance of injury.
  • Improves athletic performance.
  • Increases range of motion.

Here's a quick morning routine that includes light dynamic stretching and static stretching to help you start the day:

Static stretches after a workout

Who wants to stay 10 minutes more after a demanding workout? Most people like to stretch after a workout in order to avoid being sore the next days. However, research has shown that stretching has a small effect on minimizing muscle soreness.

But you would be surprised, static stretches post-workout can help:

  • Improve your flexibility
  • Increases range of motion
  • Get a better posture

When you stretch you may feel some minor discomfort, but stop if any pain occurs. You just a steady pull and hold your stretch between 45 seconds and 1 minute. Be aware, studies have shown that static stretching before exercising should be performed for less than 45 seconds, otherwise this could cause decrease in performance.

Here's a quick nighttime routine that includes light dynamic stretching and static stretching to help you sleep better:

Fascia stretching and muscle growth

The muscle fascia is a layer of fibrous connective tissue which surround individual muscles. Some experts believe that fascia limits a muscle’s ability to expand in size.

Some bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to perform fascia stretching right after a working set. For example, lower the weights on the dumbbell fly and hold the position for 10-20 seconds. They strongly believe that it would enhance muscle fullness and separation. Stretching like this can increase flexibility and could potentially boost muscle hypertrophy via other mechanisms, but there are no studies yet showing it impacts the fascia that covers the muscle.

In summary: stretch before and after your workout

You should now be able to answer the question should I stretch before or after my workout?

  • Dynamic stretching is an active stretching with a controlled movement (e.g. torso rotation).
  • Static stretching is when you hold a position for a certain amount of time, usually 45 seconds or more after a workout (e.g. forward bend).
  • Dynamic stretching should be used before a workout.
  • Perform static stretching at the end of your workout (or before your workout for 45 seconds or less).
  • You should feel a minor discomfort while doing static stretching, not pain.
  • Give fascia stretching a try.

References:

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