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I Wonder When to Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One?

Kymberly doing tree splits at Rancho la Puerta When to stretch?Stretch It or Be Wretched

Dear K and A: I am curious when to stretch and where in my workout it would be appropriate to add stretching? I am very comfortable in my fitness routine, which is generally a 20 to 45 minute treadmill program (depending how much time I have) followed by lunges with weights in hand, followed by upper body exercises with hand weights, followed by some ab work on the floor. (I’ll fess up, I’m often “too busy” to do the ab portion)  Joan, Oregon

When to Stretch? When warmKymberly: Time to stretch your mind and your workout, Ms Comfy. Ignoring your question for a moment (I am good at ignoring non-compliments too), let’s chit chat about an exercise routine that is, well, too routine and comfortable. Once your body has adapted to a certain level (let’s call it the “buff, babe-a-licious” level), it needs CHANGE to keep adapting upwards. No, not THE Change. We don’t require age checks here. While you really do need to get some stretching into your program, even more you need to vary your program. Take a look at our post, How Often Should I Vary My Workout? for more on this professional free nagging. Priorities, priorities.

When Do I Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One? Click To Tweet

Before, During, or After My Workout?

Alexandra: You want to add stretching? Okay, cardio + weight training = need to stretch for range of motion (ROM!)  To translate, if you do any cardio or weight training you should stretch (mostly at the end, but during is sometimes okay) in order to maintain or increase range of motion, also known as flexibility. In short, don’t do your stretching prior to your workout as your muscles are short then. That’s my short answer! I gave all the researchers permission to let you know that stretching prior to exercise does not prevent injury or muscle soreness.

Increase your range of motion by stretching AFTER your workout. Click To Tweet

When Muscles are Warm or Cold? Extended or Contracted?

Kymberly: The ideal time to stretch is when your muscles are their warmest and cuddliest. Hmmm, that sounds immediately post-cardio to me. But since Alexandra brings up the “short muscle” comment, let’s think about that for a sec. Time’s up. After strength training, your muscles are short again. That’s why it’s called “muscular contraction.” And you do want to re-extend whatever you just shortened, stretching either between your lunges and each upper body exercise or at the end of your session. In general, stretch when warm; not when cold. Oy vay, such good advice! Basically, you have choices — post-cardio, between strength exercises, post all resistance training, and before abs.

More good advice to make the most of your workout time and maintain as much flexibility as possible is to read our post Stretch Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?

Stretch when you're warm, not cold. You can stretch post-cardio, btwn strength exercises, post… Click To Tweet

Alexandra: It would seem you don’t need an excuse to lie down and not do your ab work, but I’ll give you one anyway. With all that time you’re saving avoiding the ab work, use it to hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds. You say “couch po-tay-toe,” I say “couch po-tah-toe.” You say “hold” or “contract-relax” stretching, I say “static” or “PNF.” Whatever! These two types are probably the best choices for you. You say “Or-i-guhn,” some other fools (not I) say “Or-i-gahn.” And let’s not even start on the pronunciation of “Willamette!” Even Martin Sheen got it wrong on “West Wing” (hint: Memorize this-“It’s Willamette, dammit”). And do your abs, Willamette!Unassisted Calf Stretch

Dear flexible readers: Do you take time to do your stretches? Have you done your ab exercises yet?

ACTION: Want to get excited about doing abdominal exercises? Check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

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Photo credits: Creative Commons: kevindooley, quinn.anya, Avoir Chaud

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

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