The one true and correct answer to the question of whether you should warm-up and stretch before your workout doesn’t exist. However, if we’re going to look at it from the perspective of whether there are any benefits to warming up and stretching before your work out, then the answer is yes! Those benefits might not directly affect the workout at hand when it comes to stretching, but overall, stretching provides long term benefits, hence, there are always benefits to stretching before your workout. Bear with me though because the answer you’re seeking is really not that simple, the correct answers are determined by the following many variables, some being:
- Condition of the athlete
- Type of workout
- Duration of workout
A good warm-up:
- Prepares the mind
- Raises body temperature
- Increases blood flow to the muscles
- Includes regressions of complex movements to come
Stretching the muscles:
- Prepares them for physical activity
- Helps reduce the chance of injury
- Increases range of motion
- Improves ease of movement
- Improves mind-muscle connection
Preparing the mind for what’s to come and increasing overall demand gradually will improve performance.
Increased blood flow to the muscles means that more oxygen is delivered to the muscles, if your body delivers less oxygen to the muscles then your muscles start to fatigue much faster.
Raising body temperature means less chance for muscle and tendon injuries.
A good warm-up includes regressions (less complex variations) of the exercises to come and breaks them down if possible, all which in turn prepares the mind and body for faster and more flowing execution of the complex or loaded movements.
- Is it good to stretch before a workout?
- Do you really need to warm up before exercise?
- Should you always stretch after a workout?
- What are some examples of warm-up exercises?
- What is the best warm-up before a workout?
- What is the minimum time that a warm-up should last?
- Is it better to stretch before or after a workout?
- Warm-up and stretching ideas
Is it good to stretch before a workout?
If you’re warm and focus on dynamic stretches then yes it is good to stretch before a workout. Performing static stretches before your workout is generally not recommended. However, it is possible to do certain static stretches before your workout under the right conditions.
Even if there would be no immediate benefits for the workout at hand when it comes to stretching, the long term benefits can’t be denied, and long term accumulated benefits from stretching eventually produce benefits to the workout at hand.
Do you really need to warm up before exercise?
If you take someone that has been training for a long time, always stretches, and is in good condition, then under the right conditions it’s quite possible for that person to attack a workout and walk away without experiencing any problems. If a workout is so well designed that it builds up gradually from safe bodyweight exercises to increased intensity or load, then most people would be able to attack that workout without warming up prior. On the flip-side, walking in and attempting a 1 rep max without warming up would be madness. Is it better to always warm-up and stay on the safe side? Yes!
Should you always stretch after a workout?
The same concept as above applies, if a workout is well designed and has lots of movements that test the range of motion continuously and frequently during the workout then stretching after that workout is not required. Skipping a stretching session after a couple of your workouts is also not going to kill you, just don’t make it a regular habit, especially when you’re still in the early stages of improving your flexibility.
What are some examples of warm-up exercises?
Some great exercises to use in warm-ups are, but not limited to:
- Hip hinges
- Overhead reverse lunges
- Jumping jacks
- Arm circles
- Shoulder circles
- Single hip circles
- Hip circles
- Ankle circles
What is the best warm-up before a workout?
The best warm-up is the one that prepares you the best for what’s to come in the workout, whether that is load, intensity, endurance, fast explosive movements, etc. they all require something a bit different so there really is not one warm-up that fits all. There are of course good full body warm-ups that would be suitable for all but that does not mean they’re optimal.
The main things to look for in a warm-up are:
- Raise the temperature
- Focus on the muscle groups that will play the biggest role in what’s to come
- Break down complex movements and regress to bodyweight
A great example of a warm-up that prepares for the deadlift is one that includes bodyweight hip hinges, stiff-legged as well as the conventional hip hinge, and then also focusses on the other areas like grip, trapezius, erector spinae, etc.
Full-body is always recommended because unless you’re performing isolated movements the whole body needs to do work. Take the kettlebell shoulder press for example, while you’re simply standing and holding the heavy kettlebell in racking position your whole body is working to stay upright, especially during the press when more stabilization comes into play.
What is the minimum time that a warm-up should last?
The minimum time varies from person to person and the conditions covered previously. If a number had to be put up then I would say you need at least 4 to 8 minutes minimal, and 8 to 16 minutes is optimal. It is, of course, important that the warm-up is planned appropriately, you do not want an intense 16-minute warm-up which leaves you with nothing in the tank for the actual workout.
Is it better to stretch before or after a workout?
If you had to choose between one or the other then pick after, if you can do both, do both and make sure that those you do before remain dynamic and are done after some form of warm-up. Personally, most of the time I start with some light dynamic stretches, pick up the pace, then follow up with intensity, but this also depends on the weather, where I live it’s stinking hot most of the time, if it’s cold I will start with low intensity, then light dynamic stretches and follow through with intensity (depending on what’s to come). After my workout, I would follow up with some more static stretching although in general I remain a fan of dynamic stretches and see them deliver the most benefit.
Where’s the science to back all this up? In the end, there will be some science that says no, and there will be some science that says yes, so, go with what feels good for you, test it all out over a period of time and see what feels better for you, mind and body wise. As for the information in this article, it’s based on personal experience and nearly 2 decades of training others across the world.
Stretches and warm-ups
Below you can unlock, with a simple social share to show that you care, many videos that have warm-up and stretching ideas.
A freestyle kettlebell warm-up with a lightweight.