Here’s everything you need to forget about stretching, and everything you should know instead.

By Jennifer Cohen
July 20, 2015
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To stretch or not to stretch? That is the age old question. You’ve heard it all. Stretch before your workout. Stretch after your workout. Stretch between each set. Don’t stretch at all.

But it's just not that simple. With all of the confusing recommendations out there, how do you know what’s right or wrong? While it’s not the most exciting topic in the world, it’s extremely important for anyone to know the different types of stretching and when to do each one.

Here’s everything you need to forget about stretching, and everything you should know instead.

Myth: Always stretch before your workout

Fact: Do the right type of stretches before your workout. There are two main forms: static stretching (holding stretches while your body is at rest) and dynamic stretching (stretching while your body is in motion). Prior to a workout, it is ideal to perform dynamic stretches, such as straight-leg swings and arm circles.

While it's true that you might feel more "stretched" after static stretching, these exercises actually lower the elasticity of the muscles, making it a poor way to prepare for a big bout of activity. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, prepares your muscles to work and increases their core temperature, making them the perfect moves to get you ready.

Myth: Static stretching is never good

Fact: There is also the misconception that because it isn’t ideal to perform static stretches before a workout, that this type of stretching is “bad." On the contrary, static stretches are the perfect way to close out your workout, as these moves help cool your muscles down. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your workout to do some static stretches.

Myth: Stretching before a workout prevents injury

Fact: It's not that simple. The relationship between stretching and injuries is complicated. Certain types of stretching may be helpful for injury prevention if done before some activities (for example, playing sports like soccer), while in other cases (like during cycling or jogging) stretching may have no impact, according to a 2004 review in the journal Sports Medicine.

Most injuries actually happen due to improper technique or warm-up. This doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about stretching at all but that you should do all three: do the appropriate stretches at the right time, practice proper form and technique, and don't forget to warm-up.

Myth: Stretching prevents sore muscles

Fact: Don’t we all wish this one was true? Unfortunately, while it may feel good, stretching does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness. If you're ramping up intensity of your activity and feeling sore, using a foam roller afterward may work better.

I’m already flexible, so I don’t need to stretch

Fact: While you may have that flexibility now, over time, that will diminish. Taking the time to do a comprehensive stretch routine 3 to 4 times per week will help you to keep your flexibility. Added perk? This is great for your joints, and may save you from aches and pains later on.

Looking for stretches you can do at work? Check out 5 Stretches for People Who Are Stuck at a Desk All Day.

Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of the new book, Strong is the New Skinny. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors, and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.