Should you do stretching before or after your workouts? Because it lowers risk of workout injury and lets you put out a better performance? Let’s have a look.
Static And Dynamic Stretching
To discuss this, we first have to talk about the two types of stretching that basically exist:
- Static stretches, where for a certain time you hold a stretch without moving
- Dynamic stretches, where you stay in motion and do movements similar to those you do in your exercises
Worse Performance And No Injury Prevention
The type of stretching most people do before their workouts is static stretching, as it was a long-held belief that this will lower the risk of injury, make your more flexible and lets you put out a better workout performance.
However, in the last decade quite a bit of research has been done on the subject that came to rather different conclusions.
First of all, there is virtually no evidence that stretching will prevent injuries. And when it comes to workout performance and flexibility, static stretching can make things worse, as the stretched muscle will usually respond in one of two ways:
- The stretched muscle can lose some of its ability to put out force, similar to how an overstretched rubber band responds, that loses its ability to snap back into its original form. In terms of working out, your performance may end up being worse.
- Or, if the stretch was done to almost breaking point, the muscle may respond by tightening, to prevent overstretching, which will effectively lower flexibility and range of motion. When you go running, this can actually cause cramps.
Warming Up And Warm-Up Sets
Both aren’t quite what we want. Instead, do this:
- Before a workout do 1 – 2 warm-up sets, where you do your actual exercises with 20 – 25 percent of the weight you are going to use during the workouts.
- Before a cardio activity like running, cycling, inline skating etc., do low speeds for 2 to 3 minutes. When jogging, for example, this would be swift walking.
These will heighten blood flow to the muscles, which will prepare them for the job ahead. It also gets more nutrients to them, letting you put out a peak performance.
Dynamic Before, Static After
If stretching has a place before and after workouts, then it’s as a bit of dynamic stretching after the above warm-up sets and as static stretches post-workout. The evidence is still mixed, but at least some exists that shows these can have a positive effect on performance and flexibility.
This video summarizes the above article:
Picture courtesy of “lululemon“.