Is it better to stretch before or after exercise?
It is a common misconception that static stretching (holding a position for a prolonged period) is required before exercise, mainly to prevent injury. Recently, research has been showing quite the opposite. Static stretching before physical activity might hinder athletic performance. It is more important to stretch after physical activity, more especially after your cool-down.
Before the start of physical activity, rather than static stretching, some dynamic activity is required to warm-up the muscles and get them ready for your workout. So rather than stretching your hamstrings before your run, try a dynamic warm-up. Dynamic warm-ups are important to increase your heart rate and body temperature before your activity. Increasing your heart rate will increase circulation and warm up your muscles. The active movements assist in loosening up the joints of the body, elongates your fascia and prepares your body for the task ahead. Dynamic stretches to incorporate into your workout include : on the spot marching, forward skipping, forward and side lunges, jumping jacks and knee hugs.
After your exercise, it is important to perform static stretches along with some foam rolling during the cool down phase. During exercise, particularly weightlifting, your muscles are undergoing repetitive contractions, leaving them in a shortened state. Static stretches are therefore essential to bring them back to their natural state, improve posture and flexibility. Hamstrings, calfs, glutes, biceps, and triceps are few of the many muscles that should be stretched after your workout. It is important that each stretch is held for at least 30 seconds before releasing. Any less than that period of time will not be as effective.