Stretching before and after a workout is crucial. One of the main concepts people often miss when working out is how important it is to stretch. Because people are usually more focused on their actual workout, stretching often gets put on the back burner.
However, it is vital to warm up your body before working out, especially if you’re doing exercises like weight training. It is also important to stretch after your workout to increase the circulation in your body and make sure that your muscles don’t tense up.
The question remains…is it best to stretch before or after a workout?
The answer is both. There are different types of stretches you can do that will affect your body differently. For example, you should be doing more dynamic stretches before a workout, which include activities like walking lunges, or going on the StairMaster before your workout. I typically do 10 minutes on the StairMaster before I start my weight lifting. This loosens up your muscles and prepares you for optimal performance in your workout to follow.
According to Yuri Elkaim, who is a fitness expert and used to work as a strength coach for the men’s soccer team at the University of Toronto, “a good dynamic warm-up should consist of the following components: 1. A light aerobic warm-up, 2. Soft tissue work on a foam roller (optional), and 3. Dynamic warm-up exercises (dynamic stretching).”
Elkaim stresses the importance of a dynamic warm-up to help the body loosen its muscles and prevent injury, even after you leave the gym. He suggests doing a combination of dynamic (light) exercise as well as stretches to get the best pre-workout warm-up.
If you are looking for dynamic stretches and warm-ups, here are some of the best:
1. Walking lunges
Yuri Elkaim explains how to do dynamic warm-up exercises, including a reverse lunge twist that people can try: “From a standing position, take one leg and take a long step forward, drop down into a lunge” and push forward into a standing position again. Repeat with either the same leg for 10 repetitions, or alternate legs. As long as you are doing equal amount on each leg, you can execute it however you want.
2. Light jogging, biking or cardio
Do one of these for 10 minutes before your workout. Using the StairMaster, treadmill or stationary bike are a few good options.
Get into a push-up position, either with your legs straight or your knees bent. Your back should not be resting higher than your head. Your back should be straight. Then dip down with your arms, keep your elbows in, and raise yourself back up. Repeat this 15 times.
Now that we’ve discussed some pre-workout warm-ups, let’s move on to post-workout cool downs.
This is just as important as stretching before a workout! For post-workout exercises, the most effective way to cool down is to use a roller ball to loosen up those muscles.
When you lift heavy weights or even do bodyweight workouts, your muscles can tense up. Using a roller ball or a foam roller is one of the best ways to loosen your muscles back up. You can use it on your back, legs, sides, shoulders, etc.
Another way to cool down your body after a workout is by doing static stretches, or in other words, stretches where you hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Some examples that you can try at home are the hamstring stretch, glute stretch, butterfly stretch, lower back stretch, and abdominal stretch.
Stretching is an integral part of the workout process and has an important effect on your exercise routine. It is important to know that different types of stretches are more effective before a workout, such as dynamic stretches, and others are better after a workout (static stretches). This can help you remember that it’s best to stretch before and after your workout.
The take home: do your stretches! It’ll make a difference.