Is Stretching Necessary Before Exercise?

Young lady stretching

As you go about setting up your workout routine, you may wonder whether stretching is absolutely necessary to include both before and after exercise.

You know that stretching does definitely bring about some positive benefits, but when you’re in a hurry and want to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible, is it okay to skip over this? After all, you have cardio and weight lifting to complete – which are no doubt going to bring you one step closer to your dream body.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the important things to consider when thinking about whether stretching is necessary before and after exercise.

Is Stretching Necessary Before Working Out?

First let’s consider the issue of stretching before exercise – is it a must do?

The good thing about stretching before exercise is that it can help to loosen up the muscle tissues and increase your range of motion.

When you’re performing any strength training activities, it’s important that you are able to move throughout the full range of motion as this will be key to reaping all the benefits that that particular exercise has to offer.

Those who only move through a limited range of movement due to tense and tight muscles are not going to work their muscles to their full capabilities and could in fact develop muscular imbalances because of this.

In addition to that, some people find that stretching before exercise can help to bring their focus level up as they get more in tune with their body. If this means that you’re then more focused while going about your workout and are better able to generate a maximum level of force, this is without a doubt going to prove to be very beneficial as far as your long term results are concerned.

Finally, stretching can also help to get the blood flowing throughout the body and this increased circulation can then help with force generation so that you’re able to push as hard as possible as you execute each lift.

So while you could possibly get away with not stretching before your workout, the benefits are clear that some very light stretching for about five minutes could work strongly in your favour.

Is Stretching Necessary After Exercise?

Next, you’ll want to consider the stretching after exercise issue. Is it necessary at this time?

If there is one time when you do want to make sure you’re completing stretching activity, post-exercise would be it.

At this point your muscles are tight, tense, and may even have a build up of lactic acid present, which is going to play a key role in making you very sore the next morning when you get out of bed.

If you don’t do something to help remove that lactic acid from the tissues, you could be facing much tightness the coming day. Stretching can help out with this.

Furthermore, since you will have just finished your workout session, your body will be all warmed up, which means that your muscles will be at their most limber state.

If you’re someone who actually wants to improve their flexibility level, stretching now is going to be the best time for you. You’ll find that you’re able to push deeper into each stretch you do, further increasing your range of motion.

Another benefit to doing stretching after your workout session is that it acts as a very good way to cool down from that session. Doing a proper cool-down is important as this will bring your heart rate back down to a resting level and help to prevent blood pooling in the lower extremities.

Stretching will relax the mind and body after the workout session so you leave the gym feeling invigorated and refreshed rather than fatigued and ready for a nap.

So again, while you don’t absolutely have to stretch post-workout, you really should make an effort to. Those who do include stretching at this time will see far greater benefits from that session than those who don’t.

5 Tips For Stretching

So now that you know the down-low on whether stretching is necessary, it’s time to give you a few take-home tips to use when doing your sessions.

1) Remember To Breathe Correctly

First, make sure you don’t forget to breathe. This is a big mistake that many people make as they go about their movements and it can really curtail how far they’re able to stretch. Take deep and controlled breaths throughout the entire time you’re doing the movement and you’ll find you’re much more flexible because of it.

2) Hold Each Stretch For At Least 20 Seconds

Second, make sure that you’re holding each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Avoid those 5 second stretches as they really aren’t doing anything but moving you through the action pattern.

Once you get into position, hold and take three deep breaths. This should ensure that you reach the 20 second mark.

3) Stretch Regularly Throughout The Day

Another thing that you should consider is light stretching throughout the day. Note that the goal here isn’t flexibility improvement but simply to enhance your range of motion.

If you’re sitting throughout the day, you’re going to get quite tense and stiff, which may make your stretching later on pre and post workout more difficult.

To remedy this, do some very gentle stretches every few hours. Don’t push the muscles beyond comfort but just increase your range of motion.

4) Avoid Bouncing

Next, make sure that you never bounce while you stretch. If you try and bounce into position, hoping this will help you become more flexible, it’s essentially an injury waiting to happen.

Instead, get into position and hold. Bouncing should never come into play as you must hold that stretch for 20 seconds as we mentioned above.

5) Never Stretch Cold

Finally, last but not least, never do a deep stretching session cold. This is a very good way to pull or strain a muscle as they’re too tight to be pushed into the stretch.

Instead, do a light 5 minute warm-up consisting of walking, light jogging, marching in place, or even just doing arm and leg circles. This will really prevent injuries and help make your session that much more productive.

So there you have the facts about whether stretching is required before and after your workout. If you want to see the fastest rate of progress possible, it is best if you dedicate 10 minutes to this form of activity.

One comment

  • Burt

    I think you should always stretch before exercising. It lengthens the muscles, increases blood flow and gets you warmed up. I believe stretching helps prevent injuries as well 😀

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