So we all know that stretching is a good thing, but knowing when to do it may be a little less clear. Today we’re going to discuss the concept of pre and post workout stretching. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of the physiology behind stretching and clear up any misconceptions you may be having.
First off, pre-workout stretching can definitely be a good thing. Going on a run, playing a sport, or performing some other long, constantly repetitive activity? Stretch it out. Static hold stretches, the kind where you bend, twist, flex, extend, etc and simply hold, are a great way place to start. For starter’s, give these a shot before performing any of the above activities…
-Hamstring stretch: With a *straight* back, bend at the hips and feel a pull in your hamstrings. Slightly sink lower, making sure you keep your back straight. You want your upper body parallel with the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
-Hip Opener: Again with your back straight, get down onto the ground as if you’re in a lunge position, with both knees on the ground. *Lunge* forward putting your weight onto your front knee, feeling the stretch on the same side hip.
Now, you notice I didn’t mention stretching before strength training? let me clarify; if you’re stretching 15 minutes or more before lifting, go for it. Holding arms behind your head, stretching your chest in a doorway, or whatever else you enjoy is your thing, go for it. However, stretching immediately before lifting weights may actually not be beneficial. Several studies have found stretching and then immediately lifting weights will result in a decrease in strength. This obviously causes a less effective workout, which I’m sure we all want to avoid.
Now, stretching after a workout is great. It’s going to increase blood flow, open up that muscle fascia allowing muscles room to grow, and *may* cause a little less DOMS (remember what we talked about last week?); although the research is still a little weak on that one. Again, hamstring stretches, hip openers, anything focusing on the shoulders, wrists, piriformis, and/or back are great areas to hit.
That should be more than enough to get you on your way to improving flexibility, staving off injury, and keeping your workouts as efficient and effective as possible – good luck and let me know if you have any questions!
+ Matt Paley [Founder + Trainer at Share It Fitness]