When should I stretch?

Being flexible is the key to good health overall. The more flexibile you are the better. I recommend stretching your major muscle groups(hamstrings, calves, quads, chest, back, biceps and neck) 3 times a day for a duration of 30-60 seconds each muscle group.
Stretching is very important! Movement preps are a great way to both warm up and stretch out. Movements such as leg swings, walking lunges, lunges to the side, inch worms (walking your hands out to a plank position and then walking your straightened legs in as close to your hands as possible) will help loosen up your body and prepare you for your workout. At the end of the workout make sure to leave time for static stretching which is where you hold a stretch for atleast 30 seconds, make sure to target all the major muscle groups.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
[media id="DEV__4c84d01c5fe4a6_47754823" title="Foam Roll Hip Rotators"] [media id="PRD__4ccf04d802c287_39508432" title="90 - 90 Hamstring Stretch"]  Stretching is an extremely important technique to prevent injury, warm-up your body before exercise, and cool your body down after exercises.  There are many different forms of stretching including; self-myofascial release, static stretching, active stretching and dynamic stretching:

I recommend the following sequence:

1. Warm-Up (Prior to exercise)
    a. Foam Roll: 
    b. Static Stretching on tight muscles 
    c. Active or Dynamic Stretching:

3. Cool down Stretching (after exercise)
    a. Foam Roll
    b. Static Stretching

Stretching Guidelines:
1. Foam Roll - find a tender point on the foam roll and hold for 30-45 seconds
2. Static Stretching - 2-3 sets of 20-30 second holds
3. Active/Dynamic Stretching - 1 set of 10 reps
Flexibility should be a component of any exercise program. I recommend stretching both before and after you workout - as a part of your warm up and cool down process. Start out with static stretching then progress to dynamic stretches, by the end of your warm up, you should already be sweating. I start at the top and work down - 10 reps each direction, necks rolls, then ear to shoulder (for side neck muscles), chin to chest, chin to ceiling, then shoulder rolls, big arm swings, hip circles, trunk rotation - then progressing to pulsing dynamic stretches like abductor/aductor side stretches, toe touches, and so on.
Eric Olsen
Your stretching routine should take five minutes or so. You can do stretches any time, and as often as you wish. You may find that stretching in the morning upon rising is a nice way to wake up. But since your muscles tend to be "cold" and stiff, stretching then might be more difficult. You may find that stretching in the evening before bed is a relaxing end to the day. If you plan to work stretching into your exercise routine, we suggest doing these after your brisk walk, bike ride, or whatever, rather than before. After, your muscles will be warmed up and more relaxed, so you can probably get a more effective stretch.
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...

Listen to Dr. Mike his input is spot on.  After I ended my career as a national level bodybuilder my knees were so tight I could not show clients how to perform a squat.  Simple self myofascial release to tight muscles allowed for more range of motion and decrease of inflammation in the joints.  Within a few months my knees were back to normal and could resume normal activity.

With flexibility it is very important to point out that being over flexible is not good either.  There is something called length tension relationships in which each muscle should have an appropriate length so it can perform at its maximum.  An overly lengthened muscle is generally weakened and will be suspect to greater increase risk of injury.  An overly tight muscle is can cause severe muscular imbalances and it can lead to injuries and the beginning of the cumulative injury cycle.  

It is not good to have overly tight or lengthened muscles.  The key is to have the proper balance in muscles.  How do you know what is overly tight or overly weak?  Find a good corrective exercise specialist who is trained to look for this.  Sharecare is loaded with these experts.

Proper flexibility training should not take hours a day to perform.  The key with flexibility training is consistency.  The simple techniques that Dr. Clark laid out and done 10 minutes per day can make significant difference if done consistently.

It is recommended to stretch before and after your workout. Before and after activity use static stretching to decrease muscle spindle activity. Perform 1 to 3 sets of each stretch, holding them for 20-30 seconds. If you don’t have any postural distortion patterns, you can perform Active Isolation stretches as a pre-activity warm up. Hold each stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and perform 5 to 10 repetitions.

I am a big believer in stretching. I love feeling lose and limber and love getting my clients in to feeling tension free 24/7. There are 3 types of stretching passive, active and resistant. Passive you can do without being warmed up. Active and resistant you must be warmed up. Use your time wisely at the gym, stretch out between sets, so that you maximize your time during your workout and when you're finished you don't have to do it. Plus it opens your muscles, so that you get full range of motion when you are doing an exercise. If you had food in your teeth wouldn't you immediately floss it out? The same concept applies to tension. If you are feeling tight-learn specific stretches to open those muscles, so that you don't injure yourself when you go to lift.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.