Why do we stretch pre-workout?

Stretching before exercise helps the muscle get back into a more linear and normal state. A state that is without knots, tightness and also assists in increasing the Lymphatic system response in removing any excess waste materials that have built up and struggled to be removed from previous exertion.

Why do we stretch post-workout?

Post stretching helps the body in the removal of waste products by increasing the flow of lymph fluid. It will also allow the muscle fibres to better return to a more natural linear state with less tightness and fewer knots which will hinder performance and increase the likeliness of muscular strain. Stretching will also increase blood flow allowing a shorter recovery time, increase in performance vs loading and less discomfort at a muscular level.  

Stretching and the Lymphatic system

The act of stretching will help the lymph fluid to move throughout the lymphatic system, which will release blockages, decrease swelling and help with a healthy movement of beneficial nutrients and unwanted waste products. 

Stretching and muscular contraction

Stretching to lengthen muscle fibres or to bring back normal state will increase flexibility, bring on more efficiency in muscular and joint movement and provide the body with a greater range of movement. The length of an entire muscle depends upon a number of stretched fibres as is also the total strength which is determined by how many muscle fibres are recruited in a single contraction. Stretching is key in strength performance.

Nick’s Conclusion

My experience has shown that if you are loading correctly and you do not stretch lightly before and after exercise, and you do not invest at least twice a week in a longer stretching sequence then you are more likely to get strains, tightness and be less motivated to train. Waking up and feeling tight, sore and hobbling around trying to get your body going and warmed up can be facilitated and helped with some daily light stretching. You are then more likely to feel confident in your overall weekly loading and training generally. Feeling confident and motivated is the difference between maximising your training load and not. You got to feel ready to go! 

Nick’s Recommendation

If you give yourself a robust and comprehensive stretching regime each day, will you stick to it? Most people won’t and so although stretching regimes would be dictated by the specificity of training, it is also the case that most people will not stick to an overwhelming time-consuming routine, no matter what it is.

Have a routine that can be integrated into your life, yet is routine and achievable long-term even when you are loading and tired from normal life and training.

I run for 2-5 minutes, stop and stretch Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Soleus and Calfs (these together) for 10, 20 seconds only then continue with my session. I do the same at the end but with an additional 30 seconds with a shakeout between. Twice a week I do permanent stretching which is an addition of 30, 60, 90 and 120 seconds and I do some hip opening exercises too and stretches that are a bit more specific to my training, such as weighted fitness or upper body cross fit. I ensure I am always warmed through with light exercise or a bath and I do my stretching in front of the TV to aid the boredom of stretching! Do not overstretch, everything is done in a light and progressive fashion.


Nick has a background in Physical Training Instruction within the Armed forces, Nutrition and Sports Science. He has coached in CrossFit, strength and conditioning, fell and cross country running, swimming and cycling.
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