How to Stretch for a Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Orange cat stretching on white surface. Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

By Kate Feinberg Robins

Warm-up stretching should increase your mobility in preparation for more intense exercise, without putting yourself at risk of pulling a muscle.

  • Be gentle and dynamic. 
  • Move continuously rather than holding a position. 
  • Keep your stretches small and your muscles in motion. 


Cool-down stretching decreases muscle soreness and tightness, and leads to long-term gains in flexibility.

  • Sustain your position for several breaths or at least 30 seconds.
  • Relax the muscles you're stretching. 


Stretching for increased flexibility requires repeated sustained stretches and lots of patience.

  • Choose a moment when your muscles are very warm--like after a long walk or run. 
  • Hold your stretch for several minutes, making sure not to put weight on the muscles being stretched. 
  • Deepen your stretch gradually and with lots of breath. 
  • The longer you hold the stretch and the more often you do it, the more gains you'll see in flexibility. 
  • Never move suddenly into a deeper stretch than you're ready for. This can cause a pulled muscle, which can take months to recover from, reversing all of your hard work!

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