Warm –up, Stretching and cool down - all three extremely important during different stages of your workout. For e.g. Stretching is extremely important before and after embarking on an exercise regime. Especially, after finishing your exercise routine, as ones’ muscles are worked out and need to be relaxed and stretched. It isn’t advisable to do static stretches, where you hold the stretch before a workout, which may decrease your strength, power, and performance.
Always warm up first. To improve range of motion and avoid injury, you do need to stretch, but don't ever do it when muscles are cold. Always start with some mild aerobic warm-ups to get blood to the tissue before doing any stretching. It is recommended to do brisk walking or slow jogging for about five minutes, followed by stretching before exercise. Warming up increases blood flow, which increases the temperature in the muscle, which makes the collagen fibers more elastic like a rubber band.
After warming up, do dynamic (not static) stretches. Dynamic stretching means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and holding a stretch. They may include simple movements like arm circles and hip rotations, flowing movements as in yoga or walking or jogging exercises.
Popular Warm-up Stretches
Leg Curl Kicks: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. This is a great quadriceps stretch. Do several repetitions of 30 seconds each at your own pace. The point is to do the movements in a controlled manner.
Knee lifts: As you're jogging or walking, bring knees up toward your chest. For a variation, as your right knee comes up, twist the lifted leg gently to the left and your upper body gently to the right for a spinal twist. Repeat on each side as you jog or walk.
Step March: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you, alternating as you walk with your normal stride length. This is an effective hamstring stretch.
After your workout, it is recommended to do static stretches. This is great to lengthen muscles and improve your flexibility. Hold static stretches for about 30 seconds. Never stretch to the point of pain. It should be gentle to start and then progress.
One should also stretch to release chronic stress. Gentle stretching of chronically tensed muscles, especially those of the neck and shoulders, provide relaxation to the mind as well as the body, helping one de-stress and relax.