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We know life can be very busy, and sometimes getting your workout in is difficult, so you may be tempted to skip the warmup and post-stretching to save time. However, this can have a negative effect and even prolong your workout recovery.

What’s the best way to warm up before you exercise?

Recommendations for warming up have been changed. The standard static stretch has been replaced by dynamic stretching.

Active stretching refers to movements that contract muscles and move joints through a full range of motion. These functional movements are performed on cold muscles (think putting a raw noodle into warm water).
Active stretching is more beneficial for pre-workout warm up because it warms the muscle and decreases stiffness. The best active stretching movements are sports specific and performed in a controlled steady tempo. An example of a sports specific active stretch is doing 20 high knees before running. Other common active stretches include:

  • Leg swings - front/back and side to side
  • Walking lunges
  • Hamstring curls
  • Side bend/twist

What’s the best way to warm up after you exercise?

Static stretching is beneficial for post-workout exercise. This type of stretching refers to single movements that are held for a period of time, generally 30-45 seconds.
Static stretches are done when the body is warm. They help prevent post-workout stiffness and can help put muscles back at their pre-exercise length (think straightening out a cooked noodle). The focus is on alignment and slow, controlled intentional movements held for 20-30 seconds without bouncing or straining, while paying attention to areas of your body that are feeling tight. Examples of static stretching include:

  • Seated hamstring stretch
  • Seated butterfly
  • Chest opener
  • Overhead triceps stretch

Static and Dynamic stretching are both important to a successful exercise program. So, don’t try and skip the stretching! Investing in 5-10 minutes pre and post workout stretching is worth the time and will help improve performance, prevent injury and increase flexibility.
Kelly Burkert has worked for the Y as a personal trainer for 3 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from UW-Eau Claire. She is a NETA Personal Trainer, ACE Group Fitness certified, a LIVESTRONG® Instructor, Healthy Heart Ambassador, and an ACE Fitness Nutrition Coach. Kelly has a personal passion for healthy lifestyles stemming from her own journey living with a Muscular Autoimmune disease, Myasthenia Gravis. She hopes to use her experience to empower others to overcome any barriers and will guide, support and encourage them to safely reach their health and fitness goals.