Let’s start with the obvious: Always stretch when exercising — it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you’re doing. If you don’t, you’re going to hurt yourself. The only question is when. It took me several months to hurt myself. I never made time to stretch before or after exercising and then I hyper-extended both of my rotator cuffs. I rehabbed it and apparently learned nothing so a few weeks later, I messed up the lower lumbar in my back which still hurts all the time several months later. Don’t be like me. Be better. That being said, there’s two types of stretches: Static and Dynamic.

Dynamic Stretching

Gets the blood pumping to muscles, increases the heart rate, and puts a small strain on the muscles which gradually prepare them for greater strains in the workout. These need to be performed BEFORE a workout for about 5-10 minutes. These are called Warm Ups.

A Good Warm Up Routine for beginners:

  1. Jump rope for 30 seconds OR Walk at a brisk pace on a treadmill for 2-3 minutes
  2. 10 squats
  3. 5 lunges
  4. 5 elevated push ups or 5 wall push ups

This would be an example for intermediates:

  • 30-50 jumping jacks
  • 20 body weight squats
  • 10 lunges (5 each leg)
  • 10 hip extensions
  • 20 forward leg swings (10 each leg)
  • 20 side leg swings (10 each leg)
  • 15 push ups (scale based on your level of fitness)

Static Stretching:

Involves holding a position for several seconds (usually 15-30). Here’s some examples:

These are best used AFTER a workout. Doing these before a workout was a staple for years in fitness circles until many studies started to say that doing these before a workout would: if you’re lucky simply diminish performance, strength, and power. If you’re unlucky they could actually cause injury [1]. Think of your untrained muscles like a frozen rubber band. Static stretches pull on that frozen rubber band and could cause it to snap far easier than if you were pulling on a rubber band at normal temperature.

However, if used after a workout, Static Stretches keep your muscles long and flexible, thereby decreasing the risk of pulling them later. Static stretches should never cause pain. If something is painful, stop immediately. You should feel a pull not a pain when stretching.

Here’s an example Static Stretch routine (called a cool down) to do after a workout: 

Chest And Shoulder Stretch: Slowly clasp your hands together behind your back and gently raise your arms until you feel a stretch throughout your chest and shoulders. Hold that stretch for about 30 seconds. Do this 3-4 times.

Shoulder Joint Stretch: Place your arms straight in front of you and make your hands into loose fists. Keep your fists close together and slowly raise your hands until your fist are slightly behind your shoulders. Keep your arms straight and fists close. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds. Perform 3-4 times.

Lat Stretch: Put one arm behind your head and place your other arm on top of your elbow and gently apply pressure to the elbow to deepen the stretch. Perform this stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch arms and perform the same stretch. Do this 3 times.

Groin Stretch: In a sitting position, bring the heels and balls of your feet together. Sit up straight and gently press your knees slowly toward the floor by bending forward and using your elbows to push down your knees. You should feel a deep stretch in your groin, upper legs, lower legs, and lower back. Do this about 3 times.

Quadriceps Stretch: While standing in place, and using a chair for support, lift your right left and bend your knee allowing your leg to come backwards. Grab your right calf and gently pull. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. Do this 3 times.

Hamstring Stretch: Sit down on the ground with your legs spread apart in a V-shape. Grab your right foot and try drawing your chest down to meet your right leg. Hold for about 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat. Do this 3 times.

Do I Have To Stretch? Can’t I Skip It?

The answer is yes. You have to stretch. If you absolutely cannot include both static and dynamic, because there’s not enough time then it’s advisable to do the dynamic stretches before a workout and skip static after a workout. However, if you can’t find the time to do either then you don’t have the time to exercise. Either make time now to stretch and warm up or prepare to make time later for physical rehab and dealing with chronic pain that may possibly never go away. It’s absolutely possible to exercise without hurting yourself, you just have to be smart about it.

Stretches Courtesy Of: