SHOULD YOU STRETCH BEFORE OR AFTER LIFTING/WORKING OUT?
That is a question that has multiple studies ranging from Dynamic warmups to Static stretches and everything in between.
For many people, what they have been conditioned to do, is to stretch a muscle before working out. This could harm you more than it could help you. You are essentially stretching a "cold" muscle that could strain or even tear. Stretching too quickly and too far -- and sometimes too eagerly -- can cause your muscle fibers to contract and shorten reflexively. This reaction is called a stretch reflex, which is your body's defense to avoid tearing of your own joints and muscles. This can cause the muscle to be less responsive to length change and more sensitive to pressure and touch.
Dynamic vs Static Stetching
Dynamic stretching before exercise is a great way to stimulate your nervous system and increase blood flow to the muscles. Your muscles will be better prepared for the actual workout then when static stretching. During dynamic stretching, your joints are performing full range of motion and is usually intended to mimic the exercise you are getting ready for. Static stretches are meant to be held for 20 or 30 seconds. This decreases neural stimulation and puts your muscles in more of a relaxation phase. It is very non sport specific and should be done after the workout.
Static stretching is great for after the workout. During the workout, your muscles contract (shorten) and once the lift/workout is over, they stay in that position. We can help with the recovery process by lengthening our muscles so that we recover quicker as well.
Some Effects of Stretching
Some studies have shown that dynamic stretching can improve athletic performance. So, if you wonder why we are shifting things around, it is to benefit you as the athlete. We want to do everything we can to make you as successful as possible. In a study done at the University of North Carolina, those who performed dynamic stretches prior to a vertical jump test increased their strength and power during the test. Those that performed static stretching or no stretching at all saw very little to no improvement. Like anything, you can find articles and research for and against.