Should I stretch before or after my exercise?
So patients are always asking me about how and when to stretch. It is really important to understand that there are different types of stretches used for different reasons.
To warm up before an event, you should perform dynamic or ballistic stretching. Examples are running in place, jumping jacks, arm circles, holding a stick and twisting back and forth, etc. The idea is to get blood flowing into the area and wake up the muscles and tendons to enhance performance and prevent injury. You should never do passive (long hold) stretches before an event. Passive stretching temporarily “turns off” your muscles so they can lengthen rather than shorten and contract. So you will actually perform worse!
On the other hand, if you are trying to relax “tight” areas of your body, doing that after your workout or performance is great. You should get into a comfortable position reach out and “hold” this position. Close your eyes, breath, mentally see your muscles relaxing and “lengthening” out. To start hold for 30-60 seconds. As you progress, you need to hold for 2-3 minutes to help “permanently” lengthen the area.
If you get “stuck”. Ask a partner or spouse to help you with resistance stretching. You contract the muscle (pushing against them) for 7-10 seconds, then relax….as you relax, your partner immediately pushes your stretch slightly farther, helping you move past your plateau.
Until next time, be healthy, happy and smart!