When it comes to the research on whether stretching prior to exercise prevents injuries, there’s controversy and differing opinions. But what we do know about stretching is that it can help with flexibility, range of motion, and athletic performance in the long run.

The key is knowing what types of stretches to do and when.

 

Start With A Warm Up

Before diving into the different types of stretches and whether you should do them pre or post-workout, it’s important to note that starting with a warm-up is crucial. Try a 10-15 minute easy jog, stationary biking, or rowing followed by some easy stretching.

If you’re lifting weights, the purpose of your warm-up is to rehearse the activity or event you’ll be doing for specific muscle groups. Start with a few sets (2-5 reps) of the lift, like squats, deadlifts, or chest press, with very lightweight.

Remember, warming up your muscles and practicing proper form should be the goal for your pre-workout.

 

Pre-Workout Dynamic Stretches

Combine your pre-workout dynamic stretches during your warm up, or do them immediately after. Focus on dynamic stretches only.

Dynamic stretches are active movements that prepare muscles to fire in a specific way. They don’t overstretch your muscles, which can reduce elastic power. Instead, dynamic stretches have a positive impact on athletic performance. Here are a few examples:

Walking Lunges

Start with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your right leg forward, and as you plant your foot firmly on the ground, lower into a deep lunge. Your right knee should be at a 90-degree angle and aligned with your right ankle. Hold the lunge for 1-2 seconds, then slowly come back to center and stand up. Repeat with the left leg. Continue alternating legs in a forward motion for about 20 meters.

Leg Swings

Begin this stretch standing next to a wall for balance with both legs straight. Swing your right leg in front of your body, then behind your body. (That’s 1 rep). Repeat on the left leg. Next, switch to sideways leg swings by swinging the right leg toward the left, then back to the right. (Again, that’s 1 rep). Complete 15 reps in each direction, so 4 sets total of 15 reps.

Arm Swings

Start with your feet shoulder width apart and your back straight. Swing both of your arms forward in a synchronized, windmill motion. Do 10 full rotations, then reverse your arms and do 10 rotations in the backward direction.

Alternating Calf Raises

Stand shoulder-width apart. Roll up to the toes and ball of one foot. Lower your weight onto that foot while simultaneously bringing your heel to the ground. Alternate by rolling the other foot to its ball while lowering the starting foot. Continue alternating from toe to heel on one foot, then the other. Go at a slow pace for about 30 seconds, then continue at a faster pace for 30 more seconds.

 

Post-Workout Static Stretches

After your workout, immediately do a few static stretches. A static stretch is where you hold one position for a period of time—typically about 30 seconds.

Static stretches elongate the muscles. This can be beneficial for recovery, but can negatively affect athletic performance if done prior to exercising—which is why it’s not advised to do static stretches pre-workout.

Think of an elastic band that gets stretched out too much. The band has a larger range of motion, but it doesn’t snap back as quickly or powerfully. This theory is the same for muscles—meaning when your muscles are elongated too much, they can lose their ability to generate power during explosive movements like running and jumping.

But when it comes to post-workout, these stretches can help prevent muscles tightness, soreness, and injury. Here are some ideas you can try:

 

Pigeon Pose

Begin in the pushup position then bring your left leg forward with the knee bent and the thigh ahead of your torso. Your left foot should be positioned near your hip on the right side. Continue extending your right leg behind your body, resting your upper leg on the ground. Support your weight with your hands on either side. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch sides.

 

Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall for stability with your hands on the wall. Place the toes and ball of one foot against the wall and stretch the calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the other foot.

 

Quad Stretch

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your back straight. Hold your right foot with your right hand, and pull your heel up to your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg.

 

Hamstring Stretch

Lay on your back with both feet on the ground and your knees bent. Straighten one leg, keeping your knee straight. Place both hands on your calf and clasp your fingers together. Slowly pull your leg toward your head until you feel slight discomfort, and hold in this position for 30 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat.

 

IT Band Stretch

The IT band is a layer of connective tissue that runs between your hip and your shin bone. Its primary function is to stabilize your knee. IT bands can become very tight, and are a problem area for many athletes. Stretching your IT regularly is crucial.

When standing up straight, cross your left leg in front of your right. Bend at your waist and lean to your left side. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg. Repeat this stretch 3 times on each leg.

 

Figure 4 Stretch

This stretch can help alleviate numbness and discomfort in the lower back, glutes, legs, and feet.

Laying on your back, place both feet on the ground with your knees bent. Left both legs up, bending at the knees at a 90-degree angle. Rotate your left hip out and place the outside of your left ankle just above your right knee. Clasp both hands behind the leg on the right hamstring, level with your left ankle. Pull your right leg in until you reach a point of discomfort, then hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite leg.

 

Prevent And Treat Athletic Injuries

Proper pre and post-workout stretching can help increase mobility and athletic performance if done correctly and at the right time. Have these stretches helped increase your range of motion or decreased your muscle tightness and soreness? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Spring Creek Medical Center can not only help prevent athletic injuries by improving your muscle, bone, and nerve health but can treat existing or ongoing injuries as well. Learn more about the treatments we offer and how we can meet your specific needs.

 

Are you ready for treatment? Schedule your appointment with Spring Creek Medical Center today!