Does Stretching Make You Lose Muscle?

If you stretch properly, there are few disadvantages to the practice.
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Almost everyone who does any type of sport or workout routine has been told that stretching is of the utmost importance. Trainers, "gym rats" and experts might disagree on some of the particulars, but overall, stretching should be incorporated into your routine both before and after workouts. Adding a stretching routine to your workout plan will not make you lose muscle; in fact, stretching well and regularly contributes to overall muscle health, which might allow you to gain muscle more efficiently.

Stretching and Muscle Health

Before getting into why stretching will not make you lose muscle, look at the other benefits of adopting a stringent stretching routine. According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching decreases stiffness, increases range of motion, reduces the risk of injury, reduces aches and pains, relaxes muscles and brings about a host of other benefits for physical health. Muscle size should not be your only goal, unless you're looking to develop postural problems and chronic pain.

How Muscles Grow

To understand why stretching won't diminish your gains in the gym, give some thought to how muscles grow. Muscles grow when you do resistance exercises, such as weight-training and body-weight exercises. The damage your muscles take from these workouts activates satellite cells that kick off a process of muscular regeneration and growth during recovery, often making muscles bigger and denser than they were before.

Gaining and Losing Muscle

Since it is predominantly microscopic tearing and other damage to the muscles that kicks off muscle growth, stretching will not hinder this process; in fact, it might enhance it. Stretching reduces muscular tension and encourages increased blood flow to the stretched muscles, which speeds up the recovery process. In terms of strength training, the recovery process is what it's all about. With shorter recovery times, you can train more often, and your muscles will become larger and more efficient as a result.

Stretching Tips

Trainers will argue back and forth over the ideal time to stretch -- whether before or after a workout. You're better off stretching at both times, but pay attention to what types of stretches you're doing. Before you're warmed up from intense exercises, do dynamic stretches such as leg swings, arm swings and torso twists to get your blood pumping and loosen up your joints and muscles. After a workout, slow the tempo down with a cool-down and do some static stretches which you hold for 30 seconds and then release.

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