An exercise scientist explains what everyone gets wrong about stretching

Should you stretch before or after working out?

Shawn Arent, director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University, explains why you shouldn't stretch before you start your workout. Following is a transcript of the video.

Shawn Arent: Total myth that you’re gonna get injured if you don’t stretch before your workout.

What you want to do is you want to warm up before your workout, but it doesn’t mean you want to stretch before you’re working out. I’m talking static stretching, you know, where it’s kind of that bend over, touch your toes, hold it, stretch your quads, things like that. Never ever stretch a cold muscle. That’s like putting a rubber band in the freezer, and then pulling it out and trying to stretch it. It’s not going very far before it breaks. On the other hand, you warm that same band up and you stretch it, all of a sudden you’ve got a lot more pliability.

So do your stretching after as part of your cooldown. If you’re gonna stretch before you work out, do what we call dynamic flexibility. Where you’re moving through a full range of motion, it’s not just a stretch and hold. It’s much more what you typically see, like track and field athletes doing, when they’re going through the motions for the hurdles, or the sprints, and they’re doing the high leg kicks and things. That’s really where you want to "stretch" beforehand. It’s not really true stretching, it’s dynamic warm-ups.

Same idea with getting on a bench press or a squat rack and you do some really light sets before you get into the heavy sets. That’s really very similar to a dynamic warm-up. Acute stretching decreases strength and power. Chronic stretching, when you do it at the end of a workout, increases your ability to prevent injury because it will decrease a lot of the risk factors. So if you’re decreasing those and you’ve got a better range of motion and you’ve got more pliability, more tendon flexibility, things like that, all of those things are really positive. So chronic programs are the way to look, don’t worry that you didn’t stretch before this one workout, do it all at the end.

This video was originally published December 24, 2016.

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