This has been a controversial topic for years and there’s still people who think you should avoid static stretching before training. I’ve been known to follow my instincts and try things to see how/if they work and then decide. And the research shows it is okay to static stretch before a workout. But there’s a few things to consider with that.
BEFORE A WORKOUT:
Static stretching is great before your workout when you follow it with some dynamic stretches right after or do some activation drills to ‘wake’ up the muscles to be worked. For instance, say its chest day, you can stretch your chest for a good 30-60 seconds. Follow that with plyometric push ups to ‘activate’ your muscles and get the motor units fired and primed for the workout. If its leg day; you can stretch (or roll with a foam roller, PVC pipe, or ‘knot-out’ roller) your quads, then follow it with some jump squats or heel kickers to get them ready for the workout.
You can also do some static stretching on the antagonistic muscle(s) before a workout. For example, if you’re about to train your back, you can stretch your chest as a way of inhibiting them from ‘helping’ too much once the back muscles get fatigued in an exercise.
It’s called ‘reciprocal inhibition’ and is a great way to strengthen a lagging muscle group(s). You would hold the stretch for 60 seconds, and then can start your back workout.
DURING A WORKOUT:
During training, static stretching is okay as long as you hold it for just a short 5-7 seconds. This won’t inhibit the working muscles, but will help stretch the fascia just enough to prevent further tightness, or possible injury. I like to go by feel when I stretch in a workout. I only do it if I feel my muscle overly tight where its limiting my ROM (range of motion), or if I feel a pain. If I don’t stretch it, then I’ll roll it with a roller for 1-2 minutes until the knot is ‘released’ or it doesn’t feel as tight.
AFTER A WORKOUT:
Its at this time you would hold the stretches longer to help with recovery and enable better growth. If you’re stretching, hold each stretch for a good 30-60 seconds. If one side is tighter than the other, I will start and end with the tighter side to give it two good stretches.
A lot of people hate stretching when they train, but kind of like the dreaded cardio for most, stretching is a necessity. Especially if you want to maximize muscle recruitment during your workout, enhance your recovery after the workout, and maintain decent mobility and flexibility as you get older. And the longer you train, the stiffer you’ll get, unless you start to stretch.