To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

The advantages and possible disadvantages of stretching have long been debated among fitness enthusiasts and exercise scientists. Should you stretch at all? What type of stretches should you do? Should you stretch before or after a workout? Not to worry, we’ve done all the research for you.

The general consensus is yes, you should in fact stretch and make an effort to integrate stretching into your daily routine, even if you do not plan to exercise that day. Before we dig any deeper, it is important to know four main types of stretching – active stretching, passive stretching, dynamic stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching1.

Healthline describes active stretching as the “active contracting of one muscle (the agonist) as a way to stretch an opposing muscle (the antagonist), with no external force”2. The stretch is held without assistance from another body part, band, or strap. Passive stretching, on the other hand, uses an external force to provide the pull for the stretch. Both active and passive stretching fall under the static stretching category. Dynamic stretching is a performance of repetitive movements which run through a full range of motion; for example, shoulder circles. Lastly, PNF stretching involves the use of a table and certified stretch therapist.

Prior to a workout, use dynamic stretching to mimic moves that you’ll be using during your workout. This will improve blood flow and circulation to the targeted muscles. Healthline warns exercisers to avoid using dynamic stretches during a cool down as they tend to bring up your body core temperature. Post workout, it is beneficial to incorporate a static stretching routine with a mix between both active and passive stretches. These movements will loosen up muscles which have been worked throughout your period of exercise and help to speed up recovery.

Like all things fitness, it is always best to listen to your own body and not push too far when it comes to stretching 2