Do I need to stretch after I finish a workout?

At the end of a workout, the last thing most guys want to do is stretch and cool down. If they do dedicate time to stretching post-workout, it usually involves a few simple toe touches and some arm swings before heading for the smoothie bar. As you perform contraction after contraction during your workout, your muscles are left in a shortened state. Stretching helps reset your body to a natural position and posture. Walk out of the gym without paying attention to areas that are overly tight, and you may pay the price later on with increased soreness and stiffness.

There are multiple types of stretching techniques to use during your workouts with the most popular being static (holding a position) and dynamic (moving quickly through positions) stretching. Although a recent study published in the Medicine and Science Journal in Sports and Exercise states that holding stretches prior to exercise didn’t decrease performance, it’s best to hold the longer stretches until after the workout unless you’re extremely tight in one particular area. Instead, use dynamic stretches that focus on quick movements that increase body temperature and heart rate to prepare for exercise. After your workout, hold each stretch for 25-30 seconds before releasing.

One important note: Not all muscles need to be stretched post-workout. Focus on hitting only those areas that are exceptionally tight either from the workout or from daily posture. For most guys, that means extra attention to the pecs, lats, traps, and hip flexors.

Static stretching is only part of a good cool-down routine. Along with stretching, put some light walking and foam-rolling at the end of your workout. This will help increase circulation and lower your heart rate slowly instead of heading out of the gym immediately after your last set. A cool-down routine will also decrease post-workout soreness.


About the trainer: Jeremey DuVall

Jeremey DuVall is a personal trainer based in Denver, CO. He received a Master’s degree in Human Performance from the University of Florida while specializing in strength training for endurance athletes. For more on Jeremey, check him out at JeremeyDuVall.com or on Twitter, @JeremeyD.