Many people once believed that stretching after a workout reduced aches and pains and improved flexibility. Post-workout stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, but stretching after working out does not significantly reduce muscular soreness or injury. If your goal is increased flexibility, post-workout stretching is important; if you are trying to reduce muscle pain or soreness, post-workout stretching is ineffective.
Increasing Your Flexibility
Hardcore bodybuilders might want to look bulky and muscle-bound, but most women want a lean, strong frame. Stretching after a workout helps you achieve that look. During a workout, muscles contract and small tears occur in muscle fibers. During the resting phase between workouts, muscles rebuild themselves stronger. Without stretching, muscles could shorten over time.
Range of Motion
For top athletic performance, it is important to keep the muscles functioning optimally. Increasing and optimizing range of motion by gentle post-workout stretches can optimize performance. The key is to be gentle and listen to your body. Push the muscles just a little without overtaxing them. By holding a comfortable reaching stretch, over time you can reach further because your muscles lengthen to adapt to the increased demand.
Why Muscles Ache
No amount of post-workout stretching reduces muscle soreness. The theory used to be that stretching after a workout increased circulation to muscles and joints. This increased blood circulation was thought to decrease muscle spasms. But tears in the muscles themselves are likely the culprit, and stretching does nothing to help that.
Won't Reduce Injury
In a review of five well-controlled studies on the effect of post-workout stretching on muscle injury, researchers at the University of Florida found a small effect with no practical significance. The risk reduction found was less than 5 percent. The studies indicated that if 141 people stretched for 12 weeks after working out, only one injury could possibly be prevented for the entire group.
- Seattlepi.com: Living Well: Stretch After Workout, Says Trainer
- BBC: Is Stretching Before and After Exercise Necessary?
- Journal of Athletic Training: Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.