Do you need to stretch before exercise?

Short Answer: No! Stretching before exercise is generally not recommended. After exercise is the ideal time to stretch.

Static Stretching vs Dynamic Stretching: When we talk about stretching, we must remember that there are two main kinds of stretching: static and dynamic. Static stretching is often what we are referring to when we say ‘stretching’. This is the kind of stretching where you hold a fixed position for any given length of time, for example, a seated forward fold. In contrast, dynamic stretching involves moving the muscle through its range of motion actively, for example, leg swings before going for a run.

Once upon a time, it was believed that stretching pre-exercise would reduce the risk of injury, but today there is no evidence to support this. In fact, some studies show that static stretching before a workout may actually decrease strength and power. On the other hand, dynamic stretching may serve as part of a warm-up as it increases blood flow to the muscles.

Instead of stretching before a workout, consider an active warm-up. Anything that gets the heart rate up and blood flowing to the muscles is a good idea. This can include dynamic stretches that get the blood pumping and increase range of motion.

While not useful pre-exercise, static stretching can still be a valuable part of your routine. Static stretching serves to improve or maintain our tissue’s range of motion, which is valuable to keep us active and able throughout our lives. For example, if you are spending a lot of time sitting at a desk, stretching out the neck, lower back, and hips may make you feel good and help you avoid injury. So, save your static stretching for post-exercise.

References: 
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22316148/

About the author

Cheyenne Holman

Cheyenne Holman

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD)
Accredited Sports Dietitian
Certified Personal Trainer
Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher