Do you make time for stretching as a part of your regular workout routine? It may not build muscle mass or burn a ton of calories, but it is a key part of your workout that help can enhance your fitness results. It warms up your muscles for the work they’re about to do, and keeps you flexible between workouts. It also helps decrease your risk of injury by increasing your range of motion. 

There are two basic kinds of stretching – dynamic and static -- each is done differently, and each offers a different benefit. 

Dynamic stretching 

Senior Director of Personal Training Kelly Musovic describes dynamic stretching as “active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.” She recommends using it before exercising. 

“These types of stretches mimic the movement of the activity – or even the sport – that you’re about to perform.” 

Before your workout, your muscles are cold. Going straight to vigorous activity can pull them the wrong way, potentially causing injury. Swimmers often do arm circles, among other forms of dynamic stretching, before starting their laps because it simulates what they are about to do in the water. 

You can do things like slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists. Dynamic stretching is low-level movement, which gradually builds you up to being ready for your workout. As a rule of thumb, dynamic stretches should be alternated for up to a minute, completing approximately 10 reps, or as many as feels good for your body. 

Static Stretching 

According to Musovic, static stretching differs in that “your muscles are extended and held for a period of time. With dynamic stretching, there’s no holding.” Static stretching is most beneficial after your workout. 

Static stretching is holding in a stationary position which is meant to gently extend the muscle. Not to the point of pain, but you should definitely feel the stretch. You can do one long set, holding each move for a period of time, or break it up into shorter sets. The main objective is to stretch within your range of motion, then gradually build to longer movements. As a guideline, static stretches should be held for at least 15-30 seconds to really lengthen those muscles. 

It’s also important to listen to your body and focus on the areas that you feel are tighter than others.  

With this in mind, try adding these stretching routines before and after your workout to enhance your results. 

Dynamic stretches for before your workout 

Heel sit extension with rotation 

With your knees on the ground, sit back into your heels with laces flat on the floor. Bend your torso over and place your forearms on the floor in front of your body. Put one of your hands behind your head and reach up and behind with your elbow. 

Alternating knee grabs 

Stand with feet hip distance apart, begin a slow march. Engage your lower abs as you lift each knee up to your torso. Hold for a few seconds before switching sides. 

Alternating side lunge 

Stand with feet wide, hinge your hips back as you lunge to one side. Be sure your bent knee doesn’t extend past your ankle. Hold for a moment before switching sides. To further engage your obliques, alternate reaching to your foot as you move from side to side. 

Walking lunges 

Stand with feet together, take a step forward until your knee is bent at 90-degrees. Follow through with your other foot, lunging on the opposite side. Complete a few laps back and forth, alternating sides. Keep your back leg straighter for a deeper stretch in your hip flexor. 

Static stretches for after your workout 

Bent over hamstring stretch 

Stand with feet together, bend forward reaching for your toes. If you can’t get that far, grab your shins or ankles, depending on your range of motion. 

Quad Stretch 

Bend one leg behind you, grabbing your ankle and holding. Make sure you keep your hips facing forward as you feel the pull in your quad. 

Side opener 

Extend your arms overhead. Grab one wrist and lean to the side. Hold before repeating with your other arm. 

Tricep Stretch 

Bend both arms behind your head, grab one elbow and gently stretch your arm over. Hold before switching sides. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and relaxed to get the full benefit of this stretch.