Finding time for regular workouts is a challenge all on its own, so it’s no surprise that lots of people skip warm-up stretches, post-workout stretches, or both. Of course, doctors and physical therapists recommend that you don’t skip any of it—but is all that stretching really necessary? And if you feel like there’s only time to stretch once, is it better to stretch before or after a workout?
Unfortunately for those of us with packed schedules, there’s no easy out on this one! Giving your muscles time to “warm up” and “cool down” from exercise is absolutely crucial for preventing injury. For athletes and non-athletes alike, regular stretching also reduces soreness, relieves tension, and improves posture.
It’s better to simply think of the stretches before a workout and the post-workout stretches as a part of the workout itself. If shortening your workout is the only way you’ll have time to exercise at all, then shorten everything—rather than eliminating the stretches. It’s not worth it to jump in and out of an intense workout, only to suffer an injury and miss even more exercise because you’re rehabilitating.
Especially for stiffness and pain in the upper back, mid-low back, and neck, stretching can make a big difference in your quality of life! Below, we cover everything you need to know about pre-workout stretches, post-workout stretches dynamic stretches vs. static stretches, and more.
Stretching doesn’t have to be complicated! Whether you’re performing stretches before a workout or cooling down, there’s no magic sequence for doing it the “right” way. That said, you should keep in mind that there are different types of stretches—some of which are most helpful before a workout, and some that are better used as post-workout stretches.
Dynamic stretches are best before a workout. These are movements that take your muscles through their full range of motion, and they’re great for boosting muscle temperature and can even improve athletic performance. Properly warmed-up muscles are less likely to be injured and are better at delivering speed, agility, and acceleration during your workout.
Plenty of people are unsure whether it is better to stretch before or after a workout. Actually, the answer is neither: they’re equally important! You should also perform static post-workout stretches immediately after exercise. Also known as maintenance stretches, they relax the body, regulate blood flow, and break up the lactic acid that has accumulated in the muscle tissue during your workout. The result? Not only will you feel less sore afterward and in the coming days, but your athletic performance will be better during your next workout.
Stretching can go a long way toward alleviating stiffness and soreness, but sometimes your muscles need a little extra help! A licensed physical therapist can create a customized regimen of stretches, specially designed to reduce your discomfort and improve athletic performance. Request a virtual visit with IMPACT Physical Therapy to learn more, and then schedule an appointment at one of our facilities in Chicagoland and Champaign-Urbana.