There is considerable discussion on both sides of the debate on whether it is better to stretch before a workout or after.
Pre-workout Vs Post-workout Stretching
The following are are my guidelines, based upon the research I have studied over the years and also my experience as a personal trainer.
The general purpose of stretching is to develop and maintain an appropriate range of motion for safer, more efficient exercise patterns.
My research and experience suggests that a more lengthy cardio based, dynamic warm-up with a shorter period of stretching is more beneficial than a lengthy stretch session pre-workout.
Dynamic Stretching is better than Static Stretching
Studies suggest that static stretching before a workout, doesn’t do much except ‘loosen you up‘. Whereas, a simple dynamic warm-up can give you the benefits of feeling both warmed up and loosened up.
According to ongoing research, athletes who perform static stretches before training produce less power in their muscles causing deterioration in performance. Warming up dynamically, rather than just stretching, not only prepares the muscles for the exercises to come, but, importantly, ‘loosens you up‘ without tearing muscle fibres.
Furthermore, the most effective type of post workout stretches are proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretches.
PNF stretches are the kind where a stretch is held under tension, released, challenged, and repeated 2-3 times for up to 20-30 seconds.
It is crucial that you put your body through a range of stretches frequently in order to prevent injury. A more supple body will allow you to perform exercises through a safer, more effective, more efficient range of motion.
So readers, if you want long lasting results you need to take care of your body. This absolutely, 100% means stretching!
However, if you have been focusing on stretching before you train, reverse it.
Instead, introduce a dynamic warm-up, then workout and afterwards spend 5-10 minutes winding down, relaxing and focusing on those areas you know will need a little more attention. Your muscles will thank you for it.
Having said that, whether you favour stretching before or after a workout, the most important thing is to keep on stretching.