Stretching is a crucial component in any workout.  Some people tell you to stretch before your workout and some people tell you to stretch after? So who is correct? The answer is…both. Stretching a muscle when it is cold will set you up for injury during your workout while stretching a muscle that is warmed up will give you the range and elasticity you need to bring your body through the required range of motion.  Also, stretching a warm muscle will result in a lengthening and will make your muscle more suple and “stretchy”. Think of your muscle as an elastic band. If you were to place the band in a freezer and try to stretch it, it would not go very far. If the elastic band was left out and you repeatedly stretched it out, it would eventually become longer and easier for you to pull. The same is true for your muscle. Muscles respond better to heat, therefore stretching after a warm-up (for a sport) or a workout, will lengthen and increase your flexibility over many weeks/years.

To gain flexibility, the muscle must be warm. This will result in permanent lengthening or plastic deformation. If you want to stretch but don’t feel like getting sweaty by doing a workout, a hot shower or bath will do the trick.

This is not to say that stretching your muscles while cold is a bad thing. When you wake up in the morning, your muscles are cold. But to stretch them makes you “feel good”. You won’t get permanent lengthening but will the “feel good” stretch will relieve the tension in the muscle from being stiff. The result will end in elastic deformation.  This is where the muscle returns back to it’s natural length.  Same as if you’ve been sitting at a desk for a long period of time. It is recommended that you take a walk and do some static stretching (held position) to get the blood flowing and body moving.(Refer to my blog entry on Monday, September 13th for office stretches)
It is important to stretch on a daily basis whether your muscles are warm or cold. We always tend to stretch the muscles while they are cold on a daily basis. Strive to stretch your muscles when they are warm 3 times per week. This will help to increase your flexibility over time. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t see major increases.  Some of us are not made to have over flexible muscles like a gymnast, but, maintaining stretches in your lifestyle will aid in less injuries.