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I've read that stretching after a session of weight lifting can help with recovery time.

  1. Is this true? It seems counter-intuitive to me as any real weight lifting session will result in micro-tears in the muscle fibers. I can see how things like ice baths or contrast showers can help reduce inflammation, prevent or reduce DOMS and thus decrease the recovery time but I cannot see how stretching already damaged muscles will help. I would be very interested if someone could explain the underlying physiological mechanism here.
  2. If a stretching post workout is beneficial what are some recommended stretches and methods? Should they be executed any differently to emphasize recovery for weight lifting versus recovery from running or just general flexibility?

For reference I have (what I think is) a pretty standard twice a week two day split routine with about five minutes of fast walking for warm-up and cool-down. I warm up for the compound exercises (the presses, squats, and deadlifts by doing a set at 50% of my target weight).

Upper Body:

  • Bench Press
  • Lateral Raise
  • Flys
  • Upright Row
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Dips
  • Deadlift

Lower Body:

  • Squats
  • Incline Leg Press
  • Plank
  • Side-Plank
  • Sit-ups
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As far as I know, the totality of research does not indicate any benefit of pre- or post-exercise stretching to recovery time or injury reduction. That is not to say stretching is totally worthless, because it can enhance mobility and range of motion, just to say that it doesn't matter when you do it in relation to your workout.

I am not aware of research to support this, but there is a theory that stretching before weightlifting can impact your results, if you "loosen" the muscles you will be loading, and temporarily decrease your maximum strength.

EDIT: The majority of studies that I have seen focus on pre-exercise stretching to "loosen up," and its impact on injury rates. This type of research does not address the question of soreness and recovery time. However, I have found a review study that showed no impact of stretching (before or after exercise) on post-exercise DOMS (soreness) -- Herbert et al 2011. More links are welcome!

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Any chance you could support your answer with some sources? – kce Feb 8 '12 at 22:18

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