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We've all seen athletes do a few stretches here and there before partaking in physical activity, and a few stretches here and there after. But is there a rhyme or reason to their stretching? Are there particular reasons that they (and we!) should be stretching before we work out? After? Should the stretches be dynamic or static? 

We reached out to Dalissia Burke Grothe, Physician Assistant at OrthoCarolina, to find out. Read on to find out everything you need to know about stretching when you work out!

What Are The Benefits of Stretching BEFORE You Work Out?

First, let's talk about what we mean by stretching.

"Stretching is the deliberate lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion," Dalissia explained. 

Got it. So, why should we plan to stretch before working out?

"[Stretching] helps warm the body up prior to activity, thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness," said Dalissia. "It increases the flow of oxygen to your muscles which will ultimately decrease aches, tightness and muscle pain."

It turns out stretching may also increase your stamina. "You can have longer workouts due to loosening the muscles and tendons allows for less muscle fatigue," Dalissia told us. 

Dalissia also said that if you stretch before working out, it also increases your energy levels. "Movement helps nourish muscles and improve concentrations levels due to increased blood flow to the brain," she said.

What Are The Benefits of Stretching AFTER You Work Out? 

So, you finished your workout. High five! But if you're thinking about skipping your cooldown and post-sweat sesh stretches, you may want to reconsider.

"Many people and athletes remember to do pre-workout stretching but forget to do post-workout stretching but it’s just as important," Dalissia said. "There are many benefits in a post-workout stretch."

First of all, Dalissia said post-workout stretches help decrease the amount of lactic acid that builds up in your muscles.

"Muscle fatigue and soreness occurs due to lactic acid production by the moment you start working out," she said. "Stretching after a workout helps to eliminate that."

Another top advantage of post stretching is increased and enhanced flexibility, Dalissia said. "[That] is not only a vital part of muscle mobility, but also for lowering muscle tension," she explained. "Also, stretching ensures enhanced muscular coordination when muscles are able to work in tandem. It enables better functional mobility of muscle groups."

Should You Focus On Static Or Dynamic Stretches?  

You may think that all stretches are created equally, but that's actually not the case. 

First, there are static stretches. "Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10-30 seconds," Dalissia explained. 

Then there are dynamic stretches. "Dynamic movement stretches are designed to take a joint or muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part further with each repetition," Dalissia said. For example, leg swings or lunges with a twist would be considered dynamic stretches. 

According to Dalissia, dynamic stretching can help reduce the risk of overuse injury. "Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation," she added.

She said that static stretching, however, is considered safe and effective for improving overall flexibility but may actually inhibit muscle’s ability to fire.

​​​​​Learn More About Health & Wellness From the Experts at OrthoCarolina

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