Updated: Nov 9, 2021
You won't be sore anymore after reading this post!
Have you ever wondered what exactly you are suppose to do before a workout? If you are new to fitness, or even been working out for a while, there are awesome benefits to stretching the right way before and after a workout to benefit you the most. Daily stretching can have some awesome benefits including helping increase flexibility and mobility, but this post is going to discuss how to stretch before and after a workout. You can check out this video here to see all the stretches mentioned in this post in action.
Stretching is awesome. Stretching before and after a workout increases your range of motion, helps improve your performance, and lowers your chance of injury. Stretching is basically making your ligaments and muscles longer by decreasing stiffness. There are different types of stretches and some types of stretching actually decreases performance, while other types actually help you increase muscle force. Stretches typically fall into two main categories: dynamic stretches and static stretches.
Get That Blood Pumping: Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic Stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues for performance and safety. These movements are performed before a workout and are usually functional exercises that take joints through a full range of motion - this helps get the joints and muscles ready for exercise.
A dynamic stretching routine is awesome because the movements increase muscle temperature and decrease stiffness (which is what you want to do before you perform any sport or exercise routine). Again, the point of these movements is to get you ready to workout. You are mimicking the movements that will appear in your workout and preparing those muscle groups beforehand. When you actively move those muscles, it increases blood flow circulation, which increases muscle temperature. When muscle temperature increases, it increases flexibility and decreases stiffness - hence the term “warming up”. These types of movements also improve speed and agility and ability to accelerate during activity.
Whew - that’s enough science for now, let’s go into some actual examples of dynamic stretches you can incorporate into your routine.
Dynamic Stretches to Incorporate into Your Warm Up Routin
These movements are best done for about 5-10 minutes before you begin your actual workout. You want to perform the movements for about 10-12 reps.
This is one of the best stretches ever in my opinion. It really opens you up and works multiple muscle groups. You start this stretch in a downward dog and go into a lunge. Place the opposite hand on the ground and then open your chest to one side to feel the stretch. You want to actively move through this position.
Start by taking a wide stance. Your feet will stay planted the entire time. Take your time as you move side to side, bending one knee while you feel the stretch on the other side.
Lunge with Hip Flexor Stretch
Start the position in a lunge with one knee on the ground. Make sure your back is flat! You want to tuck your tailbone in to ensure this. After you check your back, slightly lean forward to stretch your hip flexor. You will then move back into a hip hinge and straighten the front leg. This stretch hits your hips and hamstrings.
Moving Low Squat
This is the classic yogi squat pose with some side to side movement. You cn take a wide stance here if you need it. Don’t worry if you can’t reach depth in this pose (took me a while to get it). You can always perform good old bodyweight squats to get the same muscles warmed up.
Cobra into Downward Dog
Take your time with this stretch, it will open up your posterior chain and fire up your core. You will switch between the two positions. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears on the cobra pose.
This is one of my favorite overall exercises, but I love to throw it into warm ups because it fires up your core immensely. Don’t be deceived by how easy it looks. You need to ensure your back is flat and take it slow to really feel the movement.
Stand on one leg ( You can lean on an object for support) and in a controlled motion start to swing the other leg in front of you and through a full range of motion. This is an awesome stretch for the hamstrings and hip flexors. I like to do this before lower body workouts and running.
This is another awesome body weight exercise that I love to throw into warm ups. Walking yourself down to a plank and back to standing even for just five reps will get your heart rate up and warm up your shoulders a core perfectly.
This is one of my staples on upper body workouts to work the joints of the shoulder. Try to keep you elbows up and level the entire time and take it very slow. You can add a 2 pound weight, but trust me body weight rotations are definitely enough.
Let’s Cool Down: Static Stretching
The second type of stretching is known as static stretching. Static stretches are positions where you stand, sit, or lie down and hold the position for a longer period of time, usually about 30 seconds to 90 seconds. The science behind static stretches is that they move a joint as far as it can go.
Static stretches do not warm your muscles up. Static stretches are actually more of a muscle relaxation movement, which is why they are performed after a workout. As a trainer, I often see people coming into the gym and performing long static stretches before they begin their training. Research shows that static stretching before a workout can have bad effects on performance.
Based on research, static stretching before a workout has no long term harm, but this form of stretching will temporarily decrease the ability of a muscle to produce force. This is bigger than it sounds because with muscular strength temporarily decreased, a person’s joints are at risk of injury because they have less ability to stabilize and control. Performing a static stretch for about 10 seconds before a workout won’t kill you, but again holding them for elongated timings is not ideal. It is recommended that static stretching be done for proper duration after a workout instead.
Static stretching after a workout can also help prevent post workout soreness and DOMS due to helping put muscles back to their pre-workout length.
Static Stretches to Incorporate into Your Routine:
This pose is a single leg stretch that should be permed on both sides. Start in a downward dog pose and bring your knee in and to the front of your body. You are now laying on your thigh and are stretching your hamstring, quadricep, and hip flexor. There are a few modifications for this pose as well, but it is such a great one to work up to.
Standing Leg Stretch
This is a typical leg stretch you see may have performed in gym class. The premise of the stretch is to take a wide stance and push your hips back and let your body fold over one leg to feel a hamstring stretch. If you lift your toes up to the sky, you will bring the calf into the stretch as well.
Seated Forward Fold
This pose is an awesome stretch for your legs and even your back. Make sure to drop your head down as well so you are not putting pressure on your neck. You can start by placing your hands on your thighs and then work your way down to touching your toes.
I hope this post explained the science behind these two types of stretching and leaves you with some better knowledge on how to go forward with your exercise routine. Static and dynamic stretches are great, when you know when and where to program them into your routine. Follow on IG for more @happyhippiefitness_ :)