The Truth About Stretching
Find out the best ways to stretch and the best times to do it.
Should You Stretch Before Exercise?
Not necessarily. It's not proven to help prevent injury, curb muscle soreness after exercise, or improve your performance. Static stretching before exercise can weaken performance, such as sprint speed, in studies. The most likely reason is that holding the stretch tires out your muscles.
You should warm up by doing dynamic stretches, which are like your workout, but at a lower intensity. A good warm-up before a run could be a brisk walk, walking lunges, leg swings, high steps, or "butt kicks" (slowly jogging forward while kicking toward your rear end).
Start slowly and gradually ramp up the intensity.
Should You Stretch After Exercise?
This is a great time to stretch.
"Everyone is more flexible after exercise because you've increased the circulation to those muscles and joints and you've been moving them," Millar says.
If you do static stretches, you'll get the most benefit from them now.
"After you go for a run or weight train, you walk around a little to cool down. Then you do some stretching. It's a nice way to end a workout," Bracko says.
It feels good, too.
"If you've ever done a long race and then done nothing afterward, you stiffen up," Millar says. "That's why I tell people to incorporate it afterward."
Can You Stretch Anytime?
Yes. It is not a must that you stretch before or after your regular workout. It is simply important that you stretch sometime.
This can be when you wake up, before bed, or during breaks at work.
"Stretching or flexibility should be a part of a regular program," Millar says. "It can be wherever you want to put it.