Hate it or love it, stretching is good for you. Though research shows that stretching won’t help you decrease or overcome muscle soreness from lifting, it does show that light stretching before a workout may help prevent injury, and helps improve blood flow to your muscles.
That being said, stretching like they taught you how in seventh grade gym class before your workout might not be the best way to go about it.
There are a few different types of stretching and some are beneficial before workouts and some are beneficial after workouts.
Let’s cover the basics:
Dynamic Stretching – Best For Your Warm-Up
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that stretches the muscle, but does not hold the stretch in the end position.
For example, leg swings help stretch out the muscles of the hips and legs, but there is constant movement and the muscles are not held in a stretched position for more than a second.
The other popular form of stretching is called “static stretching”. This is the form of stretching where you simply hold the stretch in place until the muscle relaxes.
So why is dynamic stretching so important as part of a warm-up compared to static stretching?
Well for one, research shows that dynamic stretching as part of a warm-up can improve muscle performance and power compared to static stretching.
Another study showed that collegiate, division 1 wrestlers incorporating dynamic stretching warm-ups over a four-week period enhanced their sustained power, strength, muscular endurance, anaerobic capacity and agility performance.
That’s a lot of improvement simply by using dynamic stretching in your warm-up.
Static Stretching – Best For Your Cool-Down
Static stretching can be important for athletic performance. It helps improve your range of motion, and it can help improve blood flow to the muscles.
However, static stretching should be reserved for your cool-down and not be used as part of a warm-up.
Research shows that passive static stretching before exercise decreases athletic performance and power output. In fact, most research concludes that the use of static stretching as the sole activity for a warm-up should be avoided.
In conclusion, use dynamic stretching before your workout and static stretching after.
Static stretching requires you to relax your body and release tension. This is not ideal if you are about to perform a fast, explosive movement like deadlifts, squats or bench press.
As for dynamic stretches, perform them pre-workout in motions that mimic the exercises you are going to perform. For example, if you’re going to be training legs, perform leg swings, side lunges and other dynamic leg stretches that prepare your body for movement.