The jury is still out on whether you should stretch before a workout or after, or in fact. both. There have been mixed results from numerous tests. There is a school of thought that stretching before exercise doesn’t do you any harm and that it can help in many ways, however, there are also certain types of stretches that are said to actually hinder performance – i.e. static stretching. Research has suggested that stretching before a workout can hinder performance if the stretches are held for up to one minute and if this is your only form of warm up. Many people think that stretching IS a warm up and that it’s enough on its own and this is where quite a lot of the problems lie.
Should You Stretch Before a Workout?
So, depending upon the type of exercising you are about to do, your age and overall body condition and what your goals are for that exercise (are you going for performance personal best beating runs, or are you going for a fun zumba class) should help to determine the kind of stretching and warm up routine you should do before you start your session.
Stretching Before a Workout
The ‘in favour of stretching’ camp suggest that stretching may improve your flexibility and therefore the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion. A full range of motion can assist in correct posture through the lengthening of tight muscles and that in turn could lead to less injuries. The increased blood supply to the muscles that results from stretching also means that you can possibly reduce muscle soreness after a workout. However, whether you choose to use dynamic stretches – gently moving your muscles as you would in your sport, or whether you choose to use static stretches is a hotly debated topic. Increasingly research is suggesting that static stretches have a big dampening effect on performance and strength – particularly when it comes to running and can result in your burning more energy to run at the same pace. Dynamic stretching for most sports however can help get your body ready for the session, get your muscles warmed up and the blood flowing.
However, with this in mind look at the sport you are about to do – if it is something where you are engaging a lot of muscles and there will be a lot of impact for example squash or football, then a short warm up with some brief dynamic stretches may be a good way to start but don’t forget the gentle warm up first. Sports such as boxing and golf can benefit from some dynamic stretches before you start your session and a warm up.
Stretching After a Workout
We are hugely in favour of leaving your static stretching until after your workout or even make it a session on its own. Incorporate static stretches after a workout and use this as a cool down. We would highly recommend using a professional stretch strap to help you really make the most of your stretches – a stretch strap will give you more control over your stretches and will help you to progress including achieving a deeper stretch whilst minimising chances of injury. Research has suggested that this is a great way to cool down after your session and minimise injury. Don’t go overboard with the stretches as your muscles are already fairly warmed up – instead use this as an opportunity to cool down and ease yourself out of the session. Use this as a chance to relax your muscles after the hard training session you have just put in.