Whether you are a high-level athlete or just a weekend warrior, proper stretching can enhance your workout. Regular, consistent stretching before and after a workout can improve your flexibility, range of motion, coordination, and body awareness. Regular pre-and post-workout stretches can also help prevent injuries, if done correctly.
Continue reading for our recommended pre-workout stretches and post-workout stretches along with guidance on how and when to stretch for a safe and productive workout.
Before we cover some of the most effective stretches to do before and after your workout, it’s important to discuss the difference between static stretching and dynamic stretching. Both types of stretching have their own purpose and should be done at different points in your workout.
Dynamic stretches involve the active tightening of muscles and moving your joints through their full range of motion with repetition. Dynamic stretches are more sports-specific and functional than static stretches. They reflect the motions you do during your preferred exercise regimen or sport.
Dynamic stretches prepare the body for high-intensity activity, which is why they should be done before you work out.
The benefits of dynamic stretches include:
Static stretches are positions that you hold in place for a short period of time while you are sitting, standing, or laying down. During a static stretch, you move a muscle as far as you can without feeling any pain and hold that position for 15-45 seconds, repeating each stretch two to three times.
Going back to the early 1980’s static stretches were once promoted as a way to improve performance and avoid injuries prior to working out. However little research exists to support these claims. In fact, some research shows static stretching before a workout does not enhance resistance to injury and may actually impair performance.
Another study found that leg muscles generate less energy after static stretching than if they were not stretched at all. For this reason, static stretches should be done after you work out, once the muscles have warmed up.
The benefits of static stretches include:
1. Arm Circle
Arm raises target the back, shoulders, and arms. Start in a seated or standing position. Hold your arms out straight to the side at shoulder level. Circle your arms forward, making small circles. Gradually open your arms wider to make larger circles. Make 20 circles before reversing the direction of your movement. Make 20 backwards circles.
2. Calf Raise
Calf raises are a good way to increase blood flow in the legs, which makes them ideal for Stand up straight with your feet facing forward. Push through the balls of your feet while raising your heels until you are standing on your toes. Gradually lower down until your heels touch the ground. Repeat this 10 times.
3. Spinal Twist
Spinal twists reduce back pain and stretch the spine. Stand up again and place your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms to shoulder height and place them out to the side. Keeping your torso still, gently rotate your body from side to side. Repeat this motion 5-10 times.
4. Squat Stretch
Stretching the tendons, ligaments, and bones around the leg muscles can reduce your chance of ankle and knee injuries. Stand up with your feet shoulder-length apart. Keep your knees slightly bent.
Bend at the waist and reach down to touch your toes with your fingers. Now, squat down as low as you can. Hold on to your toes and rise up from the squat position until your legs are nearly straight. Let go of your toes and return to the standing position. Repeat this five times.
1. Hamstring Stretch
These stretches help improve stamina and balance. Begin in a standing position. With your hips and feet facing forward, place one leg on a step or low stool. Gently lean forward at the hips, keeping the raised leg straight and your back flat. Flex the raised foot. You will feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Quadricep Stretch
This stretch relieves soreness and increases long-term flexibility in the quads. Stand up straight and grab a hold of your right ankle with your right hand. Bend your knee and bring your ankle up to your bottom. Focus on keeping your hip and knee in the same line. You don’t want your leg to tilt inward or outward from the body.
Keep your abdominal muscles tight to keep your back from arching. Hold for 10-15 seconds. You will feel the stretch in the front of the bent thigh. Place your right foot back on the ground and repeat on the other side.
3. Butterfly Stretch
Butterfly stretches are great for tight hips. Sit on the floor and press the soles of your feet into each other. Elongate the spine, press your hips toward the ground, and tuck your chin into your chest. Hold this position for up to a minute. Pause and repeat three times.
4. Cobra Pose
Cobra pose is a yoga staple that stretches the chest, shoulders, abdominals, and upper back all at the same time. Lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. The tops of your feet should touch the ground.
Bend your arms slightly, placing your hands under your shoulders and keeping your elbows in close to your waist. Press your lower body into the floor as your gradually lift your arms up and direct your head toward the ceiling. Keep your arms slightly bent or straighten them for a deeper stretch. Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds.
Stretching is an effective way for people of all ages to improve mobility, range of motion, and prevent injuries from physical activity. In some cases, incorrect stretching can actually cause injuries. Here are some practical tips for safe stretching:
The combination of dynamic pre-workout stretches, and static post-workout stretches will help keep your muscles healthy and strong. Strong muscles are less prone to sprains and strains, and they stabilize and support the joints more effectively which can
If you are rehabbing from surgery or an injury, your physical therapist will create a safe stretching program to help you build strength and mobility. Visit this link to find a physical therapy clinic near you.