Should You Stretch Before or After a Workout? | Active Stretching vs. Passive Stretching

There’s a lot of confusion in the fitness community around when you are supposed to stretch and how stretching affects your workout. A lot of people say “Don’t stretch before a workout! It’s gonna make you weak!” or some say “Always stretch before a workout. Or else you’ll injure yourself.”

So which is it?

Tight muscles are weak muscles

To get the best results from your workout, you need to stretch. Tight muscles are weak muscles. There are 2 types of stretches that you'll want to pay attention to for the purpose of getting the most from your workout.

Active (Dynamic) Stretching

You probably know dynamic/active stretching best if you’re a bodybuilder, runner, or anyone doing intense strength and cardio training. Active stretching is when you hold stretches for a very short amount of time, or dynamically moving your limbs to get the blood flowing. Common examples include swinging your legs forward and back before a squat, throwing your arms back and forth, bouncing your heels off the edge of a step to stretch your calves before a run. This stretch is very important to warm up your muscles and fascia and get the circulation going.

Passive (Static) Stretching

If you’re a dancer, gymnast, yogi, anyone doing intense flexibility training, then you’re probably really familiar with passive stretching. Passive stretching is when you go into a deep stretch like Lizard Pose for at least 2 min, and your relax your muscles to go deeper into the stretch. This type of stretch can be really relaxing and really intense - more intense than lifting 100 lbs over your head - and it’s very important to increase your range of motion. Like I mentioned before, tight muscles are weak muscles. So flexibility is essential to optimizing and increasing your power output and strength. The only people who should be more cautious about passive stretching are people who are hypermobile.

So, When Are You Supposed to Stretch?

A lot of bodybuilders, runners, lifters believe you should not stretch before a workout because it makes you weak. They’re not wrong. If you go into a deep passive stretch before a workout, for the next 2 hours you’ve reduce your power output and joint stability. So for 2 hours after deep stretching, your body will be significantly weaker.

What you want to do instead is start your workout with Active or dynamic stretching. This helps warm up the body, increase circulation and get your muscles and fascia ready for an intense workout. After you’re finished, you want to take 25% of length of your workout and devote that amount of time to deep passive stretching. So if you power lifted or did an intense yoga class for an hour, devote 15 minutes to stretching passively. Hold stretches for 2-5 min, and relax into the pose, relax into how intense the stretch is.

I know some of your strength trainers love to skip this step, but remember tight muscles are weak muscles. You need this because passive stretching is the most effective way to increase your range of motion. And without having a healthy range of motion, you increase your likeliness of injuring yourself.

Well that’s it! Please, like and comment below any questions you have or ideas for future videos.

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