fitness

Should you be stretching before or after a workout?

Image via iStock

When it comes to stretching, it seems like everyone has their own rule. Some do it religiously before a workout, others do it post-workout, and some don’t even bother at all.

So what do the experts recommend?

According to personal trainer Millie Walker, it’s important to stretch both before and after exercise, although the types of stretches should be different.

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“Warming up and stretching prior to your workout aims at increasing circulation and getting your mind and body ‘game ready’,” she says.

Plus, it can help to prevent injury.

“Warming up prepares the muscle tissue for a workout to prevent injury during training, while stretching afterwards ensures you maintain and increase range of motion to prepare you for your next session,” explains Luke Scott, managing director of Revolution Personal Training.

Stretching before your workout.

This warm up is also known as movement prep, explains personal trainer Blake Worrall-Thompson.

“It’s all about activating, stabilising and warming up your muscles to make sure that all the right muscles are ready to be worked out and can get the most out of it,” he says.

getting fit after kids
Movement prep will help get muscles activated. Image via iStock.

Walker advises beginning with gradual mobility exercises of the joints with rotations and dynamic stretches of body parts that gradually increase reach or speed with control.

"Leg swings and torso twists are good as they allow the natural lubrication of your body to protect the surface of the bones at the joints," she says.

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"Typical exercises I do with clients at this stage are tube walking - where a large elastic band is worn around the feel or legs - to activate the glutes, as well as things like walking lunges," says Worrall-Thompson. (Post continues after gallery.)

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Stretching after your workout.

The stretches we're supposed to do after a workout (also known as "cold stretching" or "static stretching") are perfect for cooling down and assist in preventing soreness.

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"Post workout, stretching is a great way to lengthen muscles. I like to hold these stretches for at least 30 seconds to improve tissue elasticity and flexibility," explains Walker.

Curling your body around a fitball, then turning over and arching your back over it can help.

avoiding pain after exercise
It's important to stretch properly. Image via iStock.

Plus, avoiding a stretch session could increase your chance of injury.

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"We're seeing it in elite sport - teams are spending a lot of time on recovery and a big emphasis on stretching by doing things like Pilates," Worrall-Thompson says.

What should you stretch?

While ideally you'd stretch everywhere, there are some places that can't afford to be missed.

"Hamstrings or glutes, your lower back and chest are definitely the most important," says Scott.

For hamstrings, Walker recommends doing a double leg stretch by putting both legs up against the wall for relaxation and release.

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If you're sitting down during the day, you might have tight hip flexors. Worrall-Thompson advises stretching these out, by putting hands on your hips and pushing your hips forward and out.

Do you stretch before or after working out?