Stretching keeps muscles strong, healthy, and flexible. We need flexible muscles to maintain a full range of motion. Without it, muscles become short and tight, and then when they’re called on to perform strenuous activity, they’re weak and can’t extend all the way, causing strains.
However, the key question is when should you stretch. There are lots of thought-leadership that point to the benefits of doing it before and after workouts, but here, we’ll get into the benefits of stretching before your workout.
Is it Better to Stretch Before or After a Workout?
Before we answer that question we have to break down the different types of stretching. There’s dynamic stretching which is active movements meant to warm up your muscles. And then there’s static stretching when you hold stretches for 10 to 20 seconds.
Static stretching after a workout has a lot of benefits including reduction of pain and injury, release of lactic acid, and relaxation. On the flip side, static stretching cold muscles before your workout has proven to provide no benefits and can sometimes increase your risk of injury.
With that said, dynamic stretching actually provides the most benefits when done before your workout. You should do a brief warm-up to get the blood flowing to your major muscle groups and loosen your joints.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching Before a Workout
We’ve hinted at a few, but here are some additional benefits.
Improve Performance and Prevent Injuries
Dynamic stretching activates your nervous system and muscles, improves your joint movement and muscle flexibility, and gives you better balance and control. All of this to say is that it helps your body to feel loose and ready to go before you start lifting heavy, tackling a HIIT workout, or going for a long run.
Improved Bodily Awareness
You can boost your bodily awareness because dynamic stretching can mimic the movements you’ll do in your exercise. For example, walking lunges are a great dynamic stretch before a run because it recreates your stride while engaging all the muscles involved.
Increases Flexibility and Range of Motion
In the same way dynamic stretching improves performance, it boosts your flexibility. By warming up the soft fibers in your muscles, they become less stiff, allowing for elongation. Plus, more blood flow to the muscles before a workout helps with your range of motion to ensure you’re not truncating each movement.
Our Favorite Dynamic Stretches to Do Before a Workout
There is a myriad of stretches you could do before a workout. You can even tailor them toward whatever you’re working out that day. However, here are a few general ones that we enjoy.
- Neck twists - Roll your head clockwise and counterclockwise a few times.
- Ankle twists - With your foot hovering above the floor, twist your foot clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Torso twists - Gently rotate your upper body back and forth.
- Leg and arm swings - Swing your arms like you’re giving yourself a hug. For your legs, hold on to a wall and swing your leg back and forth.
- Walking lunges - You can drop your back knee to the floor for a deeper stretch in the front of your hip.
- Air squats - Be sure to keep your shoulders back!
Pair Your Pre-Workout Stretch with Fuel For Fire
To get the most out of your workout you need warm muscles and the right amount of energy. Fuel For Fire smoothies are made with real fruit and have 10 grams of whey or plant-based protein. Plus, they’re resealable, totally portable, and don’t require refrigeration, making them a perfect addition to your gym bag. Grab your flavor today and start getting the most out of your workouts.