When you ask 10 people about when it is the best to stretch your muscles they will state many different things. One will say it is best to stretch before the workout. The other will say it is best after the workout. The third will tell you that you shouldn’t stretch at all. Even if you get to the point of dedication to stretch, other questions arise – “Shall I do static stretches?”, “Shall I do dynamic stretches?”.
Before diving deeper into these questions let’s get to know what static, and what dynamic stretching is.
Static stretching happens when you start stretching your muscle until the point you feel a small ache and holding it there for around 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretching is the method of increasing the grade of motion of your muscles using a repetitive action.
Our muscles are acting like a spring. They store energy, then release it. Now imagine that your muscles are the string of a bow which does quite the same thing. With this kind of stretches, you can make your muscles (the string) looser. Shooting with a bow that’s string is loose would make the arrow reach a smaller distance, because the loose string couldn’t release as much power, as a tight one. Yes, static stretching makes you weaker.
Based on the above mentioned, you should only do static stretching, if you require a wider range of motion for your type of workout activity (ballet, martial arts, gymnastics). If you are simply planning to run, it is not necessary, moreover, you would probably perform worse.
When dynamic stretching the range of motion doesn’t exceed the regular. This means that your muscles don’t get loose, hence you will not lose your power. But this is not much of a reason for dynamic stretches. You won’t stretch only because you don’t get weaker doing it. The real reason for doing it that it can actually increase your performance. Repeating a simple version of the movement, that you are going to perform during the workout, can make your muscles ready, for the extreme version.
It is also a crucial part of avoiding injuries. Especially after letting your body stay in one position for a longer amount of time e. g. sleeping, your muscles are cold and tight. Warming them up could reduce the chance of tearing them.
After all, the kind of stretching you need depends on the activity you are going to perform. If your activity requires a bigger range of motion, do static stretching before the exercise, otherwise 15 minutes of dynamic stretching will be sufficient. If you would like to have a bigger range of motion, regular static stretching after the workout, when the muscles are already warm, can help you achieve it. Make sure you make it regular, as the positive effects of static stretching fade away over time.
Greatist – Is It Better to Stretch Before or After a Workout?
NHS – Do I need to stretch before exercising?
Livestrong – Should You Stretch Before or After a Workout?