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Should I stretch before or after a workout?

Sep 10, 2013

Stacy Adams
FT Central Georgetown


"Stretching is a commonly debated subject in the fitness industry. When should I stretch?  How should I stretch?  Should I even stretch?

"When discussing this topic, it's essential to distinguish between static and dynamic stretching and movements.  Before engaging in physical activity, your primary goals should be to prepare your body for movement.  This activity is commonly referred to as 'movement prep.' Movement prep is a series of dynamic stretches that prepares your muscles and nervous system for movement.  An example of this would be leg swings or arm circles.  Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching keeps your body in continuous, deliberate motions.

"Static stretching is most effective post-workout.  This type of stretching is most commonly practiced by your "regular exercisers" and involves holding the stretch for a period of time.  This type of stretching is used at the end of a workout and often done manually by your fitness coach."

Sue Teoli
FT New Canaan


"We have our clients warm up with dynamic stretching.  After their workout we do static stretching with them. Recent research indicates that static stretching does little to increase flexibility or prevent injuries. Dynamic stretches are active. So, instead of sitting down and holding your legs and arms, you're constantly moving. The active motion helps your body maintain a higher core body temperature.

"Also, science has shown that dynamic stretching is better at preparing the body for a workload than static stretching. It's also better for gaining flexibility and achieving full range of motion. Static stretches are a great way to cool down after a training session."

Billy Beyer
FT Basking Ridge

"Over here in B Ridge we like to start out with dynamic stretches to warm up tight areas on the body and conclude our training sessions with static stretches!"

Dr. Janet Brill
FT Nutritionist


"Stretching should be performed only after warming up before a workout and preferably, more extensively, after you have completed a workout rather than before. Why? It is best to stretch muscles that have been warmed up internally from exercise as opposed to cold muscles. In fact, stretching cold muscles can actually increase risk of injury, as a cold muscle is more prone to strains! Think of a muscle as if it were a rubber band. If you stretch cold rubber, it snaps and breaks; however, if you warm the rubber first, it stretches more elastically and fluidly, like taffy.

"A good exercise routine would be to warm up (work up a light sweat and raise the internal temperature of your muscles), followed by a series of brief stretches, then perform your exercise bout, warm down and end with another series of stretches. Practice this plan and you will have a well-rounded fitness routine."

Photo: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Matthew A. Ebarb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons