When and how you should stretch to get the maximum benefit, according to a physical therapist

Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

I hate to add another thing to the list, but you’re probably stretching wrong.

Erica Fritz, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, told Business Insider that while the research on stretching has been somewhat inconclusive, what has emerged is this: The kind of stretching you do before and after you work out should be different.

Reviews of studies have concluded that stretching doesn’t prevent muscle soreness, and that the timing of it before or after a workout doesn’t affect flexibility. So what’s someone who wants to get the most bang for their exercise buck to do?

If you like to stretch to warm up before your workout, Fritz recommends doing what she calls “dynamic” stretches. She means things like high leg kicks, butt kicks, and grapevines if you’re going to run. These help get your muscles “used to going through the movement that you’re going to do.”

After a workout, take a bit more time to stretch, advises Fritz. The best time to do this? About half an hour after your workout, she adds.

“After the activity, you can actually lengthen the muscle better when it’s warmed up. Stretching has been shown to be optimal at 30 minutes after an activity,” Fritz said. “That’s when you can do your more static, prolonged stretching.”

And in order to get the most benefit, Fritz said, you should stretch at least five days a week.

“If you don’t stretch for a week and then you go back and stretch, you’ll be amazed at how much your muscles have tightened up,” she said. “Stretch every day if you can, hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat it three times. That gives the muscle enough time to lengthen and really get a good stretch in.”

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