Stretching is a powerful part of any exercise program. Most aerobic and strength training programs inherently cause your muscles to contract and tighten.
Stretching after you exercise may help improve the range of motion about your joints and boost circulation.
As a general rule, stretch your major muscle groups after you exercise. In some studies, pre-athletic event stretching has been shown to decrease athletic performance.
Overall, however, stretching after exercise can help you to optimize your joint range of motion. If you don't exercise regularly, you may want to stretch a few times a week after a brief warm-up to maintain flexibility.
When you're stretching, keep it gentle. Breathe freely as you hold each stretch for around 30 seconds. Try not to hold your breath. Don't bounce or hold a painful stretch. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching. If you feel pain, you've gone too far.
Moving in sport- or activity-specific motion planes in gradually progressive speed (dynamic stretching) may be a helpful complement to static stretching and may help improve athletic performance.
Apr. 03, 2014
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed Dec. 27, 2013.
- Physical activity and health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2014.
- Tips to help you get more active. Weight-control Information Network. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/tips.htm. Accessed Jan. 13, 2014.
- Peterson DM. Overview of the benefits and risks of exercise. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 13, 2014.
- Information about flexibility. National Institute on Aging. http://go4life.nia.nih.gov/stay-active-flexibility-info. Accessed Jan. 14, 2014.
- McHugh MP, et al. To stretch or not to stretch: The role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2010;20:169.
- Rodriguez NR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2009;41:709.
- McMillian DJ, et al. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: The effect on power and agility performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2006;20:492.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 15, 2014.
- Gibala MJ, et al. Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590:1077.