When Is the Best Time to Stretch Your Muscles?

If you know when to do stretching exercises, you can avoid injury and have a better workout.

A man listens to music while stretching before going for a run.

Medically reviewed in December 2021

Most people agree that stretching is good for your muscles. But when is the best time to stretch? Should you stretch before working out? When are you likely to reap the most benefits? 

Fitness guru Tina Vindum provides a good rule of thumb on when to stretch in her book, Outdoor Fitness. "If something feels tight during your warm up, stretch it. Outside of that, you should stretch after workouts when muscles are warm," Vindum writes. 

Stretch safely 

Stretching after a workout is "the most productive and safest time because the muscles are warm and pliable," says Vindum. She believes in stretching major muscle groups only after they've warmed up. And preferably while your heart rate is still elevated from exercise.  

Here are two more tips from Vindum on maximizing your stretching power: 

  • Never stretch a cold muscle. Always warm up for at least 5 to 10 minutes before stretching. 
  • Inhale to prepare for a stretch, and exhale slowly while lengthening the muscle.

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