Tight hamstrings anyone? We’ve all heard that we should stretch before and after exercise, but do we understand why and more importantly, how we should be doing this?
Stretching during a warm up or a cool down is vital for preventing injury and protecting our bodies in the long term, but it’s also so important that we do the right types of stretches to reap the benefits (and not end up in physio with an embarrassing story!). Without further ado, let’s look at the two different types of stretches and how they can help us:
First up with have this movement-based type of stretching, which involves taking the muscles and joints through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretching increases heart rate, moving blood into surrounding tissues and encourages synovial fluid to move into the joints. Both of these combined, help to prepare the body for the stress of training, and seriously reduce the risk of any pesky injuries.
If that’s not enough to get you moving, you might also want to know that these kind of stretches help with your gym performance by increasing your overall flexibility and body strength over time. This can then lead to improved technique with movements such as squats (and deeper squats mean more glute gains!).
How to do dynamic stretches?
So now you know how important stretching before a workout is, you probably want to know the best way to do it, right? Examples of dynamic stretches include walking lunges, hip rotations, arm circles, torso rotations... and much more. Dynamic stretches can be done with just bodyweight, or you can use equipment to aid you, such as bands, barbells, poles or foam rollers. I’d advise setting aside 5-10 minutes before a workout to try a couple of different techniques and see which one feels most comfortable for you, and then of course make it part of your daily routine!
So you’ve completed your workout and are ready to go home and recover on the sofa... but wait, have you stretched out first?
Stretching as part of your cool down is JUST AS important as stretching before it. Static stretching is a position that is held, with no movement, and should only ever be done after a workout. A super static stretch can help your muscles to recover faster after exercise, meaning less pain and stiffness the next day (hallelujah!). Regularly undertaking static stretching will help to improve flexibility over time including range of motion in joints and muscles with the optimal time for a static stretch to be held clocking in at 20-30 seconds.
With all this in mind, next time you’re hitting the gym, don’t neglect your mobility and stretching routine. Just 5-10 mins of mobility before a workout and 5-10 mins of stretching after is all you need to be injury free and a sexy, sassy, mobile you.
PS. Check our piece on weight lifting for more on mobility.
Written by Personal Trainer, Kimberley Boparai
ACSM (2017) Resources for the Exercise Physiologist: A Practical Guide for the Health Fitness
Professional. 2nd Edition Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
HSS (2019) Static vs. Dynamic Stretches: Tips and Techniques [Online] Available from:
Melone, L. (2020) 7 Dynamic Warm Ups [online] Available from:
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