Stretching gets a bad rap. Sure, it can add an extra 10 minutes on either side of your exercise plan, and it might not be the most exciting part of your workout, but more and more research has found how integral it can be to performance, recovery, and injuries.
Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of misinformation about stretching. A lot of outdated fitness advice prescribes the same stretches before and after activity. This typically involves what can be referred to as static stretching, which involves holding your muscles until you feel a light strain. For example, raising your shoulder over your head and pulling on your triceps would be an example of a static stretch. The problem with static stretching, however, is that it actually forces your muscles to relax, something you don’t want them to do if you’re about to head out for a run or hit the weight room. Ideally, you’d want your muscles to be as strong as possible before beginning a workout.
While static stretching isn’t the best idea for before a workout, it can do wonders for you post-workout. This is when you would ideally want your muscles to relax, so that they can properly recover from what you just put them through. Furthermore, static stretching after workouts can help prevent injuries and help your muscles recover much faster.
So, what should you do before a workout? The answer is something called dynamic stretching.
Think of dynamic stretching as more of a warm-up for your muscles. These involve wide range movements, instead of static holds for your muscles. An example could be moving your arms in circles to get the blood flowing in your muscles, or a few low-impact squats. The goal here is to get your entire body ready for the workout, and to loosen up your muscles. Dynamic stretching can also elevate your heart rate better than static stretching and get your entire body ready for the rigours of your exercise program.