There’s a lot of controversy over whether you should stretch before or after you work out or if stretching is even necessary at all for workout sessions. If you’re confused about whether stretching is even beneficial for you and if you should bother to do it, then I want to help clear up some of the confusion.
There are definite benefits to stretching, but there’s not just one kind of stretch. The different types of stretching are beneficial for different points in your workout. Understanding that is the key to getting the most out of your workout and reducing your risk of muscle injury.
The Benefits to Stretching
Is it better to stretch before or after workout? Even if you don’t know the answer to that, you should know that there are certainly benefits to stretching as it relates to exercise.
Stretching limbers up your muscles, making them more flexible and easier to move. It also improves blood flow, encouraging good circulation, and that’s going to benefit you throughout your workout session and ensure that your muscles are getting the nutrients they need.
Stretching is great for getting your heart rate up initially as well. It’ll help raise your resting heart rate as your body moves into action. It encourages a slow, gradual, and safe increase in heart rate.
It’s also useful for cooling down, helping your body go from an excited, intense level of activity to a restful one.
Why Stretch before a Workout?
Is it better to stretch before a workout or after? You could do either one, and there are benefits to both. I want to start talking about your before workout stretching and why you should take time to do that.
As I mentioned, stretching can help to limber you up. It improves flexibility, giving you a greater range of motion. Have you ever tried to start working out when you weren’t feeling very flexible? Maybe you tried to work out first thing in the morning or tried to exercise right after having sat for a long time.
What happened? You probably felt stiff and even sore. You might not have felt like you had much range in your motion, and the movements may have been difficult to do.
If you stretch before you work out, you’ll loosen up your muscles, tendons, and joints. Everything will work better and flow more easily. It’s similar to warming up a car before you take it out for a drive.
This eases the engine into the higher level of activity, reducing stress on it. Likewise, warming up before you get into your main exercise regimen eases your body into the workout. Instead of shocking your body with fast, intense activity, you’re gradually moving into it.
This reduces stress on your heart, blood vessels, and muscles, and means that you’re less likely to have a lengthy muscle recovery time after your workout. You’re also less likely to feel sore in your joints, muscles, and tendons after your workout.
You’re also less likely to injure yourself when you work out. If you stretch your muscles and your tendons by doing some warmup exercises before your main workout, you’re less likely to pull a muscle or hurt your tendons.
Try doing a “Is it better to stretch before or after a workout?” database search on WebMD. You will bear able to read about all of these benefits and more.
The advantages to stretching properly before working out are well known and well documented. Numerous studies have been done on this very subject, so the research stands strongly behind the benefits of starting your workout session with stretches.
Why Stretch after a Workout?
We looked at stretching before workout and why you would want to do that. Now, let’s look at why you should stretch after a workout. There are unique benefits to stretching at this time as well, and it’s worth getting to know what those are so you are properly motivated to do what are known as cool down stretches.
So, the research is a little sketchy and not quite conclusive for some of the benefits of cool down stretching. Stretching after a workout can certainly feel good and help you to ease out of your workout session. Studies have shown that this reduces pressure on your blood vessels and your heart and benefits your body over the long term.
What the science isn’t quite as certain about is whether stretching after a workout does anything for your muscle recovery. A lot of people swear by post workout stretching for reducing muscle soreness, but you should know that this may not be the case for everybody.
What a lot of health and fitness experts will tell you is that the damage is already done to your muscles during the workout that will require muscle recovery. Stretching afterwards might not make much of a difference, according to these experts.
Stretching after a workout helps your body to recover faster. It may not do much for muscle soreness, but by improving blood flow, and boosting your circulation, it ensures that nutrients reach the areas of the body they need to go to. This means that your body heals faster, and you’ll be ready to go and work out again the next day.
Without that after workout stretching, you may feel miserable. You might feel like you can’t work out the next day, because your body is still trying to recover from the last workout.
That is the kind of difference that a cool down stretching session can make. If you constantly feel rotten after a workout and the following day, it could be because you’re not stretching at the end of your workout session.
It could also come down to how you stretch and how you cool down. That cooldown period is essential if you are going to recover quickly and feel your best after a workout.
Do you feel like it’s a waste of time to warm up and cool down before and after your workout? A lot of people do, and they skip these workout phases. I don’t recommend forgoing stretching, however.
Your warm up and your cool down periods don’t have to be lengthy, involved or complicated. They can be something quick and simple, taking just two minutes. That’s all it takes to make a difference in your workout and how you feel as you work out and how you feel afterwards.
Try incorporating the stretching periods into your workout, bookending your session to see the difference it makes. Besides the immediate benefits you’ll notice and how much better you’ll feel, you’ll also be contributing to your long-term health. You’ll be reducing stress on your heart and your blood vessels. You could be protecting yourself from high blood pressure, or hypertension, later on in life.
But what about if you don’t have much time? If you don’t feel like you have time for a full workout session, should you think of skipping the warm up and the cool down periods? I want to suggest an alternative to cutting these parts off.
My suggestion is to shorten the overall workout time, cutting out some of the exercises you do or doing fewer reps. This way, you will still have time to bookend your workout with a warm up and cool down. That will be great for your health, and you’ll feel so much better afterwards.