By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 28 November 2016)
Warming up before a workout is important. Stretching can be part of that warm-up, but it should be dynamic rather than static stretching.
Stretching before a strength training workout
Dynamic stretching is active movement of body parts through their full range of motion without holding a position for any length of time, whereas static stretching (the kind most people do) involves holding stretches for anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
Dynamic stretching reduces the risk of injury and can improve performance. Static stretching, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on performance by reducing strength and power if you do it right before a workout. Moreover, research suggests that static stretching before a workout probably won’t reduce the risk of injury, and may even increase it. So do some dynamic stretching prior to your workout and save the flexibility-building static stretching for after your workout.
Warming up for a strength training workout
Research has shown that warming up before a strength training workout can help to prevent injury. In addition to dynamic stretching, there are a few different ways to warm up:
- If you go for a short session of cardio, most experts recommend a classic range of options (jumping jacks, jump rope, using a cardio machine such as an elliptical or stationary bike, etc.)
- Many experts also suggest doing some push-ups, bodyweight squats, lunges, and other exercises that, when done quickly, combine cardio and light strength training.
- Another recommended option is to warm up by doing a series of quick sets with much lighter weights than you normally use. If you choose this option, do the same exercises you plan to do during your main workout so that your warm-up targets the muscles you’ll be using.
Many warm-ups combine two different strategies, for example, a few minutes of general cardio followed by dynamic stretching or a warm-up with light weights.
Strength training cool-down options
As for cooling down, there is some evidence that doing a brief bout of cardio at the end of your strength training workout (for example, cycling on a stationary bike) can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Also, while research has shown that static stretching probably has little (if any) impact on muscle soreness after workouts, it does help to increase and maintain flexibility, so it’s worth doing. The end of your workout is a great time to do it because you’re warmed up, which reduces the risk of sustaining a stretch-related injury.
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- The American Council on Exercise. (2014). Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip Your Cool-down.