Do I need to stretch before or after working out?
The short answer is yes because stretching helps improve flexibility which is very beneficial in improving athletic performance in and outside the gym. However, the type of stretching you should be doing before or after your workout is really left up to the condition of your body.
Types of Stretches
Static stretching is a stretch that is held in a certain position that applies tension to a specific muscle, or muscle group, for a specific amount time usually no more than 30 seconds. Although it is the most popular type of stretch, static stretching is not necessary if you are a power lifter or strength training and you have no muscle imbalances. In fact, studies have shown that static stretching may decrease muscular strength and performance if performed immediately before a power or strength training session. However, if you do have muscle imbalances, static stretching has been shown to help increase joint range of motion and help correct those muscle imbalances.
Active-Isolated Stretching (AIS)
Active-Isolated Stretching is a combination of active and static stretching that lengthens a specific muscle, or muscle group, by contracting the opposite muscle. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, this type of stretch helps improve motor neuron activity and joint range of motion.
Dynamic stretching is a stretch that actively engages a muscle in order to take the joint through a full range of motion. According to Fit Day, dynamic stretching takes a “specific movement and makes it a stretching activity, either by deliberate extension of the limb or corresponding muscle groups, or through precise ranges of motion.” Therefore, dynamic stretching is very effective during a warm-up by taking specific muscles, or muscle groups, through ranges of motion that will be performed during the actual workout or activity.
No matter what stretching technique you choose, no one can deny the benefits of stretching which include improved posture and joint range of motion, increased flexibility, better sleep and a decrease in injury. Therefore, stretching can be considered an essential part of any fitness routine.