• Introduction
  • Basics of pre-workout stretching
  • Physiological benefits of pre-workout stretching
  • Samples of pre-workout stretching programs
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources

Introduction

Pre-workout stretching is crucial for any athlete because it activates the muscles for the upcoming exercise. This not only significantly improves your performance, but it can also decrease injury risk. If you haven’t read about the science behind flexibility, make sure you check out this article.

However, if you are already familiar with the subject and want to focus on how to stretch before exercise, you’ve found the right place. Here you’ll find all you need to take your pre-workout stretches to the next level. We’ve also created a few routines to try out!

Basics of pre-workout stretching

Pre-workout stretching consists of very short (5-10s) stretches and their purpose is to increase muscular activity or tonus. This prepares your body for an upcoming performance by improving your range of motion, increasing blood flow, raising your body temperature as well as your heart rate. Not only are pre-workout stretches short but they have to be dynamic as well. Dynamic flexibility, also known as kinetic flexibility, refers to your ability to move through a joint’s full range of motion with active muscle work. This activates the muscles and prevents them from relaxing too much before training. Therefore, dynamic stretching is a great choice for warming up.

Active pre-workout stretches are used in pretty much all sports that you can think of. However, they are especially important in sports that rely on agility, jumping, and quick sprints. Furthermore, these movements can be very straining for your joints, ligaments, and muscles, which is why it is crucial to warm them up very well before doing intense workouts. We suggest you utilize the same muscle groups needed in your sport. After all, those are the muscles that you’re going to use anyway. Another thing to keep in mind is that while dynamic pre-workout stretches should slowly increase your range of motion, they should never be taken to a joint’s absolute limits. The purpose is to get ready for performance – not to improve overall flexibility.

"Pre-workout stretches are always short and dynamic which activates the muscles and prevents them from relaxing too much before training."

To improve your upcoming performance, your stretching should always be short. In fact, multiple studies have proven that longer static stretches can hurt your athletic performance. This effect is especially apparent in sports that require a great amount of strength, power, or speed. In some cases, these negative effects may be as high as 5-28% depending on what fitness components and what muscle groups you are working with. This is a serious disadvantage when you are looking for ultimate performance. So, leave those over 10s static stretches as a post-workout routine to relax the muscles and return them to their resting length.

Additionally, try not to turn your pre-workout stretches into ballistic stretching, which means bouncing on an already stretched muscle. This has no real benefit to it, but you may even cause muscle tears while doing it. However, you should still use your muscles to actively go deeper into different stretches.

If you want to know how to create your own pre-workout stretching routine, here’s a simple way to do it:

Pre-workout Stretching


Dynamic and active stretches for all major muscle groupsBodyweight5 - 10s stretches1 - 3 setsNo rest between stretchesPerform before every exercise session

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Physiological benefits of pre-workout stretching

Pre-workout stretching has a number of different effects on your body. For example, dynamic stretching during warmup can significantly increase your range of motion, improve your neuromuscular activity, and reduce injury risk. 

Increased range of motion (ROM) is one of the biggest benefits of pre-workout stretching, and it refers to your ability to utilize a joint’s full range for athletic purposes. These stretches are best done dynamically because they can raise muscle temperature and thus reduce friction inside the muscles. Additionally, active stretches that slowly go through the whole range of a joint also improves the overall mobility of said joint. However, you should keep in mind that once you’ve warmed up and reached the range you need for your performance, you should stop stretching and move on to your actual training session. This is due to the fact that too much dynamic stretching can tire the muscles which means that you might not be able to make the most of your workout. 

Improved neuromuscular activity is another benefit that pre-workout stretching can have on your body. It means that you are able to recruit muscles through the nervous system with less effort and better efficiency. This has a number of benefits for your performance, such as better force production, improved coordination, and enhanced movement efficiency. In short, you’ll be faster, stronger, and more agile while using less energy. Dynamic stretching can even help rectify most of the relaxing effects that static stretching has on your body. So, if you’ve accidentally stretched too long before a big game, dynamic stretching can still help you prepare for upcoming physical performance. 

Reduced injury risk is crucial for athletes who want to stay on top of their game. Luckily, some studies have stated that pre-workout stretching can have a positive effect in lowering injury risk. One explanation for this is that dynamic stretching before training activates the muscles, which helps maintain good posture, balance, and proper muscle activation during quick movements. Thus, you are less likely to fall or lose the correct joint alignments during exercise. This reduces the possibility of muscle tears or ligament injuries. Some studies have even stated that dynamic stretching before exercise can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (doms) after working out. However, this topic is still under debate in the sports science community.

Short dynamic stretches improve neuromuscular efficiency and raises your heart rate as well as muscle temperature.

Samples of pre-workout stretching programs

Pre-workout stretching might often seem like a piece of cake for athletes. However, it actually needs a bit more focus than you might have originally thought. That’s why we’ve created a few samples for you to test out. With our help, you’ll be performing better in no time!

Continuous active lunge sample

1. Twist lunge

  • Step first, then twist upper body to the other side
  • 5s stretch
  • Maintain balance
  • Move on to next stretch

2. Knee to chest

  • Bring your knee up towards your chest and pull it with your arms
  • 5s stretch
  • Maintain balance
  • Move on to next stretch

3. One footed glute stretch

  • Bring the same knee down across your other leg and take a seated position
  • 5s stretch
  • Maintain balance
  • Move on to next stretch

4. Forward fold

  • Bring both feet down and fold forward, proceed to lunge with the other leg
  • 5s stretch
  • Maintain balance
  • Move on to next stretch

Lunge forward & repeat 10 times

Active stretch routine

1. Forward fold

  • Take a seated position with your legs extended, actively reach towards your toes
  • Hold for 5s

2. Quad stretch

  • Remain in seated position, grab your ankle and bend your knee with muscle work, use your arm for extra leverage
  • Hold for 5s on both sides

3. Glute stretch

  • Remain in the same seated position, cross your leg and hug your knees with the palms of your hands, actively maintain good posture
  • Hold for 5s on both sides

4. Hip flexor stretch

  • Take a lunge position and actively twist to the opposite side of your extended leg
  • You can also raise the extended side’s arm for a full-body stretch
  • Hold for 5s on both sides

5. Windmills

  • Spread your legs wide and fold forward, touch your toes back-and-forth with the opposite hand in a continuous motion
  • Continue for 10s

 

 

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor. 

Stretching too long before exercising will only relax the muscle.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Pre-workout stretching is a crucial part of every training session regardless of your age or training background. Not only does it improve your performance but it can also maintain a healthy range of motion and reduce injuries. Additionally, teaching younger athletes about the importance of stretching and body maintenance is incredibly important for future athletic development. This is especially important for growing athletes, who may not yet understand the importance of flexibility and strength balance because they’ve yet to experience any adverse effects of it. Therefore, incorporating an adequate stretching routine earlier on can be very beneficial in the long run. 

Much like any other training method, stretching also requires guidance and attention to detail. Therefore, coaches and teachers should always give more insight into what kind of stretching is the most effective for a certain situation. As far as dynamic stretching goes, the only safety measures you need to consider are staying within your normal range of motion and don’t perform ballistic stretching that takes a movement beyond the limits of your mobility. Another thing to consider is to not do too many dynamic stretches if you’ve already reached an adequate range of motion. This can even tire your muscles before exercise, hindering your performance.

Final thoughts

Pre-workout stretching is a crucial component in warming up before an exercise. This is due to the fact that they activate your muscles for the upcoming performance. As a result, your coordination improves and you are able to produce more power and more efficiently. This improved muscular activity also significantly reduces the risk of injury during exercise.

That is also why pre-workout stretching is so vital for nearly every athlete imaginable. Just as long as you remember to activate the main muscle groups that your upcoming performance utilizes. The best thing about pre-workout stretching is that you can easily incorporate short and active stretches into your warmup without spending too much of your valuable time.

With these benefits in mind, there’s absolutely no reason to not include pre-workout stretching into your training sessions. However, it is important to remember that stretching before exercise is not a shortcut to success. Along with proper training, rest, and nutrition, you must also remember to do other forms of flexibility exercises to stay healthy and mobile.

But before you get too excited, here are a few reminders to help you improve your performance in a safe and effective way:

  • Warm up major muscle groups first – especially the ones that your sport needs
  • Use the same range of motion that your sport requires
  • Perform short (5-10s) dynamic stretches to activate the muscles
  • Perform every stretch 1-3 times
  • Control your breath while stretching

Did you learn anything new about pre-workout stretching? Let us know in the comments below!

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