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When it comes to physical activity, stretching is very important, regardless of your level of fitness. There are two different types of stretching that should be performed when someone is committed to an exercise regimen. One type is meant to be for cold muscles prior to a workout, and the other is meant for afterward. They are called dynamic and static stretching.

Before any strain is put on the joints or muscles, it’s important to prepare them for what is to come. That is where dynamic stretching comes in. Also known as active stretching, it is done by using repeated movement for short periods of time on a variety of muscle groups. Forward lunges are a good example of a dynamic stretch before running. By contrast, static stretching is just as, if not more important, than active stretching. This sets the stage for part of the recovery transition necessary for any damaged muscles after a strength training workout or even cardio. It has long-term benefits, such as a reduction in muscle cramps. 

Static stretching post-workout also helps with your muscle flexibility. By making extensions more free-flowing in the future and helping you become more limber. Another advantage of loosening and lengthening your muscles is that you lower your chances of injury.

Cells during a workout can get damaged and lose electrolytes. They can also build up toxins. After any type of muscle damage, there is also inflammation while the body tries to heal itself. In addition to drinking plenty of water, static stretching is recommended to help cut down post-exercise soreness and fatigue. 

Muscles generally go through a multi-stage cycle after working out. Without any intervention, they can go from feeling sore to starting a muscle spasm that contracts, leading to tightness. Even if you don’t feel sore immediately afterward, it is very common to experience something referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). While it may feel uncomfortable to live with this for a temporary period of time, it’s usually a sign that your muscles are actually gaining strength. It may appear counter-intuitive, but the best thing to do is to gently pull your muscles into a static stretch in order to speed up the recovery process.

It’s very important to reserve static stretching exercises for after a workout because cold muscles will not stretch as far as warm muscles can, so holding a challenging stretch position for an extended length of time can actually cause injury.