The short answer: in the most perfect of all possible worlds, both. Stretching has a place on the front end of your training in the form of self myofascial release coupled with dynamic movements and after your workout in the form of passive, static stretches. At a bare minimum, you want to tack on an extra five to 10 minutes at the beginning of your workout and an extra five to 10 minutes when you’re finished to stretch. That’s not such an onerous time commitment that it’s going to require reconfiguring your schedule and moving heaven and earth to achieve. But it’s still a high enough hurdle that some people neglect stretching altogether and dedicate the entirety of the time they have available for training to performing their workout. If you want to stay injury free, achieve maximum mobility so you can get the most of the movements you perform during your workout and get the most out of your training, though, you’d do well to start budgeting an extra 10 to 20 minutes for stretching into your daily training routine.
The TRX provides you with the means you need to unload your body before a workout and take it through a gentle progression of movements to prepare it for the intensity that will follow. Ideally, you’d start out by spending some time doing self myofascial release (i.e. lengthening muscle tissue and releasing the tangles of muscle fiber that create painful trigger points in your muscles). The easiest way to do this is to slowly roll each part of your body over a foam roller several times. If foam rolling is too painful or if you just want greater control, position a foam roller beneath your TRX, hold the handles to suspend part of your bodyweight and reduce the pressure you’re applying to the roller, then gently roll each body part back and forth, lingering over especially painful or knotted up bits in your muscles.
Once you’ve rolled out, the next part of your stretching routine should be mobility exercises. Select the key movements in your TRX workout that day then gently move between the starting position and the ending position for each movement, pausing at the beginning and end for a full deep breath. Repeat several times per movement. As you do this, you’ll notice that you’re able to achieve a greater range of movement with each repetition. The foam rolling combined with these mobility exercises helps to create space within your muscles by eliminating kinks, knots, and tight spots and thereby allows you to move more freely.
Once you’ve finished training, you should stretch again. This time, though, you want to gently move to the end range of the same movements you used to stretch prior to the workout then pause at the end range for several deep breaths. Note where your body is tight and move more deeply into the stretch and the end range of motion of each movement with every inhalation. Explore the tension, observe it and watch as it subsides with every breath you exhale.
If you have more than five or 10 minutes at the end of your workout, put the TRX Essentials: Flexibility DVD in your computer or DVD player or consult the accompanying guide and follow along. If that’s not possible, try to make using the Flexibility DVD part of your rest or recovery day.
If you make the commitment to stretch before and after each training session, you’ll help your body heal, engender greater mobility and prepare yourself to go even harder the next time you get back on the TRX. It’s a small investment that will pay big dividends. So start investing today.
Fraser Quelch is Director of Programming and Education for TRX. He is also a featured fitness author and a competitive ironman triathlete.