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Why Experts Recommend Static Stretching After Your Workout Not Before

For decades upon decades everyone from gym teachers, sport coaches, to fitness instructors have been promoting stretching prior to beginning a workout or athletic event.

This has typically been what’s called “static stretching.” By statically stretching the muscles (like an old school sit-and-reach to your toes) the thought was this would help prepare the body for physical activity.

By gradually elongating a muscle, it was also thought to help increase flexibility. However, research in the past few years has conclusively shown the EXACT opposite.

You do not want to be doing static stretching prior to activity, it’s after when this form of stretching provides the most benefit.

More after the jump…

Experts are now suggesting that exercisers and athletes avoid static stretching before a workout or an event because it has been shown to decrease explosiveness and possibly increase the risk of injury.

Here’s why…bear with me for a second on the technical stuff.

Muscles function through a sliding phenomenon of tiny filaments called actin and myosin. The better the “grip” of the myosin on the actin filaments, and the more tension, the stronger the slide will be, resulting in a greater contraction and more muscle force.

Static stretching, however, loosens the grip between these two filaments, resulting in less force, and thus less explosiveness and agility.

Additionally, stretching statically does not just stretch the muscles out – it also stretches the tendons (which attach muscle to bone) and ligaments (which attach bone to bone). The primary objective of stretching prior to physical activity is to prepare the body for movement.

Therefore, you want to be moving the body and not statically stretching the muscles and connective tissue.

This type of “moving” stretching is otherwise known as dynamic stretching. Think of dynamic stretching as movements that warm up the body and loosen muscles and joints at the same time.

Dynamic stretches would include things like torso rotations, multi-planar reaches, multi-planer lunges, walking toe kicks, bodyweight squats, hurdle drills (hip rotation, flexion, extension), etc.

The objective is to prime the central nervous system, increase blood flow, and in general warm-up the body with similar movements that you’ll be doing during the activity.

That’s why it never made much sense to me that we’d stretch on the ground prior to a football game. If you’re on the ground once the game starts, you’re probably on the losing side of things.

Guys on the ground don’t make blocks, tackles, or score touchdowns. Anyways…back to stretching.

Although you want to do dynamic stretching prior to activity, static stretching can be very beneficial after, because it can help decrease and alleviate inflammation and swelling.

When you lift weights with high intensity or exercise in vigorous manner the muscles undergo tiny microtears. These small tears and resulting inflammation is what causes you to be sore in the days after a workout.

Theses microtears are actually a good thing however because they result in a rebuilding of the muscle fibers (called hypertrophy).

The inflammatory response within the muscles is a part of the process, but static stretching can help alleviate the discomfort by allowing the muscles to release.

Want to know more? Well the take-home message is that static stretching before exercise should be replaced with dynamic stretching, but it can and should be done after your workout.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. If you’re looking for a Charleston gym sign up for a FREE no-obligations trial and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself today.

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Category: Fitness Training.


  1. [...] According to Shaping Concepts, dynamic stretches include torso rotations, multi-planar reaches, multi-planer lunges, walking toe kicks, bodyweight squats and hurdle drills (hip rotation, flexion and extension). [...]