Tips to Help You Get More Out of Stretching

A couple doing some stretches outside.

Stretching is good for you. It helps relieve sore and stiff muscles, increases range of motion and improves flexibility. Do it wrong, and you might not get the results you want. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your stretches.

Stretch After a Workout, Not Before

You’ll stretch farther into the motion when your muscles are warmed up from a workout. Many people look at stretching as a warmup, but it isn’t. In fact, you can injure yourself and pull a muscle if you stretch before you have warmed up. Finish your workout with a few stretches to reduce immediate soreness and delayed stiffness.

Use a Foam Roller Before Stretching

A foam roller is a type of self-massage that can reduce soreness and help your muscles relax. When they are relaxed, the muscles can stretch further without injury. Foam rolling will help work out any knots from your exercises.

Combine Types of Stretching

Static stretching is the most common method, where you hold a stretch for 20, 30 or 60 seconds. While it is effective to helping you improve your flexibility, other forms are also beneficial. Dynamic stretching uses movement to stretch your muscles. Active stretching involves holding a stretch for two seconds with the opposite muscle group. Ballistic stretching is popular with athletes and includes bouncing movements that target a specific muscle group.

Don’t Overdo It

You want to extend your range of motion by pushing your muscles farther than they would go on their own. At the same time, you don’t want to overstretch or you could end up with an injury. Know your limits and only stretch a little further at a time.

Follow these tips to avoid injury and get the most out of your stretching.