What Stretches Should You do Before You Exercise?

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We all are aware that stretching is an important part of exercise, but what kind of stretching should you do you do before your exercise?  Or after you exercise? To answer those questions, let’s explore the types of stretching and discuss everything you need to know about stretching.

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Blonde woman wearing a green tank top and black leggings holding a pole demonstrating a dynamic stretch.

To begin with, there are three main types of stretching:

  1. Static stretching: is used to stretch muscles while the body is static, meaning that the body is not moving. A muscle is gradually lengthened to an elongated position (to the point of mild discomfort) and that position is held for a period of time, usually 30 seconds to two minutes.
  2. Dynamic stretching: is a method of stretching that increases the range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion by actively lengthening the muscle. It is done by controlled movements that bring a muscle close to its full range of motion, such as by swinging or twisting.
  3. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching: is a set of stretching techniques commonly used in clinical environments.  This kind of stretching is also known as active/passive stretching or contract/relax stretching. A professional applies resistance to counteract the force being exerted by the client on the target muscle.

What stretches should you do before exercise?

Before a workout, the effectiveness of your warm up not only affects the likelihood of injury, but it also directly impacts your ability to be active to your maximum ability.  There was a time when it was believed that static stretching was the right way to loosen up muscles prior to exercise. However, it has been discovered that static stretching does not prepare you for what you are actually about to perform, nor does it mentally prepare you either.  Simply put, static stretching is too relaxing.  Static stretching tells your muscles to relax, and it impairs their ability to store energy.

Before you work out, you need to increase the core temperature in your muscles.

This can be accomplished through a few minutes of movement, such as walking, followed by dynamic stretching.  If you stop moving for 5-10 minutes before you work out to do some static stretching, your muscles’ core temperature will drop.  Your muscles may feel stretched and loose from a static stretch, however they will actually be less elastic and not as powerful.  Dynamic stretching is now regarded as a far more beneficial warm up exercise in order to maximize your workout performance and should be a key part of any warm up.

What are some dynamic stretches to do as part of a warm up?

Leg Swings: While holding onto something stable, swing one leg to your side and then back and across your torso. Perform this movement 10 times on each side.

Leg Swings

Leg Lifts: While holding onto something stable, lift/kick one leg in front of you and then back down. Perform this movement 10 times on each side.


Some other dynamic stretches to do before you exercise:

  • Upper Body Twists
  • Arm Circles
  • Arm Cross Overs
  • Neck Rolls
  • Shoulder Shrugs
  • Ankle Twists

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What kind stretching should you do after exercise?

This is where the traditional static stretching comes in. Static stretching will help relax you, both physically and mentally after a workout. This gives your body and brain a chance to recover. Take deep, slow breaths while performing static stretches as this reduces feelings of stress. Static stretching also increases the flexibility of your joints, such as your knees, hips, shoulders, and ankle joints.  Enhancing your flexibility will allow you to move more freely and efficiently.  By improving your flexibility, your body requires less energy to make the same movements and you also will lessen the likelihood of injuries sustained during workouts, or any other time.

Slow to a jog, then a walk to bring heart rate down slowly.  Then relax the body by doing the following stretches

Frog stretch: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Turn your toes out and squat down as low as possible, keeping your heels flat on the floor. Press your knees open with your elbows.

Quad stretch: While standing, grab the top of your right foot and bring it closer to your glutes while pushing the hips forward.

Some other static stretches:

  • Downward facing dog
  • Calf stretch
  • Soleus stretch

Remember to never push your body beyond its limits. Any stretch that hurts, means you’re pushing too far. Have a great workout!

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One Comment

  1. Deborah Brooks says:

    I am so bad about stretching and warming up pre run