Inherently with exercise will come soreness and if you're not careful injury. The whole purpose of exercising is to gradually get stronger, yet without understanding the methodology behind how muscles grow, heal, and recover, the natural responses and signs your body gives after working out may be perceived as foreign and detrimental to progress. The ultimate tool to prevent injury and treat your sore muscles is stretching. But not all types of stretches are equal, so let's go through them.
There are two main types of stretches; dynamic and static stretches. Static stretches are long holds, while dynamic stretches involve more motion, exertion, and movement. Most of the stretches that people are accustomed to seeing and performing are static stretches, longer holds such as the quad stretch or hamstring stretch. Although these are perfect for post-exercise, these movements can actually harm your performance and progress if done before your body is properly warmed up. Static stretches on cold muscles often lengthen the muscle fibers to a point where they may not contract as efficiently. This is fine for after your workout is complete to prevent tightness and cramping while speeding up recovery, but when done beforehand these exercises can lead to negative results.
To explain this simply imagine a stick of gum. Before it is properly warmed up and chewed it is very easy to rip and break apart. Stretching cold gum makes it snap, while not as extreme, this is very similar to the structure of our muscles. The proper movements before exercise are dynamic stretches. Movements like walking lunges and leg swings are a few among the many stretches that are considered dynamic stretching. These motions promote warm blood to flow throughout the body and prepare it for exercise. By doing active stretches before your workout, you can ensure your body is utilizing the resources it needs to perform. Overall you should take away 3 things from this reading; stretching is very important to your well-being if you intend on sticking to a fitness regime, not all stretches are created equal, dynamic stretches are to be done before exercise while static stretches are to be saved for after. Take this knowledge with you as you build yourself your better body!