Friday, 09 March 2012 05:48

Stretching before or after your workout?

Today I'll discuss a topic that most of us have wondered about at some point. And that involves stretching - as in, when exactly should you stretch your muscles? Before a hard workout? During a workout? Or AFTER a tough workout?

Most "experts" recommend stretching before your workout. According to them, stretching "loosens" up your musclesd, and prepares them for the rigors of your workout. And according to them, stretching before your workout lessens the chances of injury. So, you've likely been taught that it's best to touch your toes a set number of times before you go out for that run. Or maybe that you should "stretch for at least 10 minutes" before starting your workout. Or something similar. 

Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something that will likely contradict what you've heard until now on this - I do NOT recommend stretching before a workout. Stretch once you've started to exercise if you must, and by all means stretch AFTER a workout - but not before. And while that contradicts what the "experts" say, well, try doing a stretch (that is somewhat tough for you - for instance, touching your palms to the ground in a standing position with the legs STRAIGHT) before you start exercising - and then do it again after you're hot, sweaty, and done with your workout. Which one is easier?

I'll bet it's easier to do it after your workout - not before - and the reason for this is quite simple. First, your muscles are properly warmed up by the time your done exercising - and a warm muscle is far more pliable and receptive to a tough stretch than a cold, tight muscle is. Ever tried to jump straight out of bed and do a tough hamstring stretch? OUCH!

Note that warming up is NOT the same as stretching - and stretching to warm up is usually not a very good idea, and actually increases the risk of injury as opposed to what the "experts" say. I am not against warming up - in fact I recommend it, and do so myself. But I don't do so by stretching. I may do a few light sets of an exercise to warm up, or I may go for a brisk walk - but that is NOT "stretching". And warming up actually helps you stretch better; not the other way around.

And thats one of the great things about the exercises I recommend in Fast and Furious Fitness - you can warm up with a few light sets of these exercises - and you can then use them in your actual workout as well.

Second, stretching after your workout helps release the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during a hard workout and this helps you recuperate better from your workouts. Stretch a muscle that has been worked throughly during a workout - and it feels like pure bliss. Can't explain the why's or how's of this one - try it yourself, and you'll understand what I mean.

And now that I've said that it's best to stretch after a workout - and not  before - let me throw a spanner into the works and say that there are workouts you can do that involves nothing but STRETCHING alone.

Yes - thats right - you can get a great workout sometimes by doing exercises that involve pure stretching - and I'm not referring to yoga here. Yet, these exercises stretch your ENTIRE BODY at once - not ONE particular area - and thus you can "ease" into the stretch, and keep easing into it throughout your workout. This actually helps tight muscles loosen up, while using the muscles that are already "loose" to help out in the stretch - giving you a great overall workout. 

I'll speak more about this type of workout later - but for most people, you'll do just fine by stretching AFTER your workout - not before!

And thats today's tip. Have a great day!

Best regards,