While most people know that stretching your muscles is a good thing overall, many people still do not know that there is a right time (and a wrong time) in your workout regime to do this stretching. So, you may ask, what is the right time to stretch?

Here is a hint: you never want to over-work or stretch cold muscles. Therefore, you should make sure that your muscles are warm and pliable before you try to stretch them. As your muscles warm up, your heart rate increases, further increasing blood flow to your muscles. If you want to avoid tendon strain and tissue damage, you need to wait until your muscles are warm. Cold muscles simply do not have a sufficient supply of blood to make them supple and pliable to the extent needed for stretching. If you stretch before your muscles have had a chance to warm up some, the protein filaments can expand. When cold muscles expand, they remain elongated for a period of time. This actually has a counter-productive effect on your workout, as your muscles may be weak for the first 15-20 minutes of your routine. In order to keep your muscles supple and ease post workout pain, a brief stretching period after you exercise is beneficial.

To prepare yourself and your muscles for a heavy workout, it is good to do some light jogging in place, flexing your arms a bit at the same time. You are not trying to get a heavy cardio rhythm at this time, as the idea is to increase blood flow to the extremities. Keep it light. Now that you have gotten things warmed up a bit, you may go ahead and stretch.

Not only is there a right time to stretch, there is a right way to stretch. You are aiming for "pull" not pain. Bouncing is also a no-no. You can do some serious damage, such as muscle trauma, tendon damage, tears, etc., but not even feel it until some later time. Interestingly enough, studies show that stretching for too short a period of time can cause many of the same problems as bouncing, so hold your stretches for at least thirty seconds.

Do not expect the stretching after a workout to add to the benefits you experience from the exercise. It is to help with muscle tightness and aches. Walking "loosely" and flapping your arms a bit is another way to ease muscle strain without actually stretching. Do everything that you can to avoid unnecessary knee and hip pain by taking care of tight hamstrings and wearing the right shoes with the right arch support system.