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The Difference Between Pre & Post Workout Stretching

Posted on June 05 2017

The Difference Between Pre and Post Workout Stretches

Our bodies are less like switches and more like volume knobs. They need to be warmed up gradually before they can perform at their full potential. If you jump straight to bench pressing 250 pounds after sitting in front of a screen for the entire day, you’re asking for trouble.

Many experts agree that stretching is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for an intense workout. But you have probably heard that you need to stretch after a workout too. Learning how to warm up and cool down is almost as important as the exercise itself. So what are the differences between pre and post workout stretches and which one is better? Read on to find out...

Pre Workout Stretching

Many people shrug off pre workout stretching. They are under the ridiculous impression that their bodies will warm up as they begin to exercise. They feel that stretching is only for the super pedantic 'nerdy’ fitness enthusiasts.

However, this is not at all the case. The list of benefits of pre and post workout stretches is so long that it can literally run into several pages. Still, we will touch upon some important points below.

1) There is some conflicting evidence regarding pre workout stretching. Some studies say that these type of stretches make the body less prone to injuries. However, others say that a warm up is sufficient and that pre workout stretches make no difference at all.

Some studies claim that stretching should be done only after the workout. Still, it is better to err on the side of caution and do both pre and post workout stretches.

One thing is certain – pre workout stretching certainly helps you to attain full range of motion. Pre workout stretches enable you to achieve maximum contraction and expansion of the muscles, resulting in a more efficient workout.

2) The muscles that you should stretch are ones that you plan to workout. Since you are about to use the muscles, don’t tire them out too much. Hold the stretch only for about 8 to 10 seconds. Don't skip on dynamic stretching (explained below).

3) Stretches helps you to ease muscle tension. Most people are sedentary for a major part of the day. Their bodies are stiff when they arrive to the gym. Stretching helps to relax the body. It supplies the muscles with oxygenated blood and prevents straining.

4) Stretching makes you aware of your body. It 'wakes up’ your nervous system and tells it that it’s time to work out.

Once your nervous system is fully active, you’re able to train with much better co-ordination and balance. This reduces the risks of injuries and improves your balance.

You can’t really put a price on that, can you?

5) Pre workout stretching prevents straining of joints. It loosens up the tendons and ligaments and alleviates muscle fatigue. No wonder stretching feels really, really good!

6) Stretching improves concentration and builds muscle memory. It tells your brain what degree your muscles can expand and contract to. This prevents injuries during the actual workout.

Post Workout Stretches

1) Post Workout Stretches lend more flexibility to the body. Now even if you’re not training specifically for flexibility, you just cannot ignore that fact that there is a close relationship between flexibility and strength.

Many conventional compound exercises such as squats, clean and jerk etc require complex movements. You cannot bend, squat and perform a host of other moves unless you are flexible. You just won’t be able to achieve the desired range of motion. So don't forget to do both pre and post workout stretches.

2) Unlike pre workout stretching, post workout stretches are held for slightly longer periods of time – typically 10 to 15 seconds. This helps to remove lactic acid from the fatigued muscles and prevents cramping.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night with a severe, excruciating cramp in your calf or thigh?

Truly, these cramps are so painful that they can make grown men cry. Stretching stops lactic acid build up and helps muscles to recover faster. (Note: Drinking plenty of water in addition to pre and post workout stretches is also very effective in avoiding cramps).

3) Your muscles become sore and contracted after a grueling exercise session. They will remain contracted and 'tight’ if you leave them that way. Stretching helps them to elongate and relax. This way, your muscles are able to recuperate quickly and you are ready for the next workout.

4) Your core temperature rises significantly while exercising. Stretching helps to cool down the body gradually. It brings down your heart rate and creates a state of equilibrium in the body.

5) Working out should make you stronger and more active.

However, often it is observed that people who exercise are low on energy.

They get injured regularly, suffer from chronic pain and their muscles are so sore that they cannot enjoy everyday activities.

They are sulky and irate when in reality, they should be exuberant and in a great mood.

Stretching can help solve this problem. It aids in recovery and eliminates soreness. Learning how to warm up and cool down properly creates a strong, supple, pliable, flexible and injury free body and also improves disposition greatly.

So which ones are better - Pre or Post workout stretches?

Both are equally important. Pre-workout stretching improves blood flow, coordination and warms up the muscles. Post workout stretches eliminates soreness, cramping and helps in faster recovery. Learning how to warm up and cool down properly is just as important as the exercises themselves. There are several types of stretches. Some of them are discussed in brief below:

  1. Ballistic stretching: Uses the momentum of the moving body part to push it slightly beyond its normal range of motion. (Not recommended without expert supervision) This type of stretching is usually performed after static stretching.
  2. Active stretching: The person applies force to cause the stretch. This is a type of static stretch.
  3. Passive stretching: The person does NOT apply the force to cause the stretch. Instead, the force is applied by an external object, device. Sometimes, another person applies the force. Passive stretching too, is a type of static stretching.
  4. Dynamic Stretching: Simply put, this type of stretching mimics the type of exercise that is to be performed immediately afterwards. For example, if you want to do sprints, you’ll stretch your muscles by performing exaggerated strides. Dynamic stretching is very useful before workouts.

Just a few minutes of stretching can help you to prevent injuries, pain, soreness and fatigue. Learning how to warm up and cool down before and after your workout aids in muscle recovery and builds coordination and flexibility.

In the event you do find yourself injured, or in need of some heat or ice packs - ActiveWrap is here for you!