You put down the weights after your last set – now what? Can you hit the showers, or should you do some stretching after your weight training is done?
That’s what today’s question from David is about:
“Is it important to stretch after strength training?”
I answer this question in the video below, but if you’d rather read, you can skip to the transcript below the video.
Does Stretching after Strength Training Reduce Muscle Soreness?
No, it doesn’t.
A 2011 research review compiled 12 studies that had investigated the effect of stretching on muscle soreness and found no meaningful effect.1 Stretching after training does not reduce your delayed muscle soreness.
Now, all muscle activity might have a temporary pain-relieving effect on muscle soreness, but the effect isn’t long-lasting. It wears off after about ten-fifteen minutes, and you might as well just do some light gymnastics or take a walk instead.
Do Your Muscles Get Short and Stiff if You Don’t Stretch after Strength Training?
Strength training, in and of itself, increases your flexibility and range of motion. Training makes you more limber, not less.2 3 4
Just look at the average, non-training office worker – they’re stiff as a stick. The reason is that you get the mobility that you use. If you are exercising all your major muscle groups with long ranges of motion, you will increase and maintain that range of motion.
Is It Important to Stretch after Strength Training?
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that for most of you: no, stretching after strength training is not important.
But “not important” isn’t the same as “not beneficial”. What are some reasons for stretching afterward?
One reason might be if you want to increase your flexibility beyond what it currently is and what you are able to use in your training.
Maybe the range of motion you are using in your training is not enough for you and your mobility goals, and you want to be able to move in a wider range? Then, some stretching appropriate to your goal might be nice to do after your training, since your muscles are already warm and nice anyway. But, you could also do this stretching at pretty much whatever time and place you feel like as well. So it doesn’t really have to happen after training.
Another reason might be that some light stretching might just feel generally nice and relaxing, and it can help you wind down after training. It can serve as a ritual for closing the door on your training session and moving on to whatever comes next.
So, to recap: stretching after training isn’t bad. It can increase your range of motion, and help you calm down after training. But it is not important, it will not make you less sore, and you don’t have to do it to revert some stiffening effect from your strength training.
Thanks for the question, David!
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- Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6;(7):CD004577. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2011 May;25(5):1333-8. The influence of strength, flexibility, and simultaneous training on flexibility and strength gains.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Nov;24(11):3144-9. Influence of moderately intense strength training on flexibility in sedentary young women.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May;22(3):672-7. Influence of strength training on adult women’s flexibility.