It’s no secret that when you’re in a hurry to get a workout done, you may neglect stretching — but you shouldn’t.

Stretching can make a difference in how well your muscles recover after exercise. It can also affect your flexibility and exercise performance.

Here’s a look at the benefits of static stretching, how it differs from dynamic stretching, and examples of static stretches you can add to your workout.

Dynamic stretching is typically done before you start your workout, and involves active movements that help get your muscles warmed up and ready for exercise.

These movements are often similar to the type of activity you’ll be doing during your workout. For instance, a swimmer may move their arms in circles and a runner may jog in place before starting their run.

Static stretching, on the other hand, is done at the end of your workout, and involves stretches that you hold in place for a period of time, without movement. This allows your muscles to loosen up, while increasing flexibility and range of motion.

If you’re tempted to ditch stretching after your workout, you may miss some of these benefits.

Greater flexibility and range of motion

Stretching at the end of your workout, once your muscles are warmed up, can help increase the range of motion in any joint you target. Range of motion is how far a joint, like your hip or knee, can comfortably move in a particular direction.

Having greater flexibility and range of motion can help you move with more comfort and ease. This can make everyday tasks and exercises easier.

Less pain and stiffness

Having tense, tight, or overworked muscles can cause pain and discomfort. Research has shown that static stretching is an effective way to reduce stiffness in tight muscles. This, in turn, can also lead to reduced pain, which may help you tackle your daily tasks more easily.

Decreased stress

High levels of stress can cause your muscles to feel tense and tight. Stretching your muscles can help them relax and, when combined with mindful breathing exercises, it can also reduce mental tension and anxiety.

Increased blood flow

A 2018 study on animals found that daily stretching can also improve circulation. Increased blood flow may help your muscles recover more quickly after you’ve exercised.

Improved performance

Boosting the flexibility of your muscles can enhance your agility, speed, and muscle strength. This may help you perform at a higher level when you work out or play a sport.

To keep your stretches safe and effective, keep these tips in mind.

  • Don’t stretch beyond what’s comfortable. A slight degree of discomfort is normal, but you shouldn’t feel any pain while you’re stretching. Stop right away if you feel sharp pain.
  • Be gentle. Use smooth, slow movements. Avoid jerking or bouncing movements while you’re holding a stretch. Be extra cautious if you’re recovering from an injury.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Breathing can help relieve stress and tension in your body, and may also help you hold a stretch for longer.
  • Start slowly. Start with just a few stretches at first, and add more repetitions and stretches as you build your flexibility.

A sample static stretching routine at the end of your workout may involve the following moves.

1. Overhead triceps stretch

This stretch targets your triceps and the muscles in your shoulders.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and roll your shoulders back and down to release any tension.
  2. Reach your right arm up to the ceiling, then bend your elbow to bring your right palm down toward the center of your back.
  3. Bring your left hand up to gently pull your right elbow downwards.
  4. Hold this stretch for 20–30 seconds before switching arms.
  5. Repeat on both sides 2 or 3 times, attempting to get a deeper stretch with each repetition.

2. Biceps stretch

This stretch targets your biceps as well as the muscles in your chest and shoulders.

  1. Stand up straight, place your hands behind your back and interlace your hands at the base of your spine.
  2. Straighten out your arms and turn your hands so your palms are facing down.
  3. Then, raise your arms as high as you can until you feel a stretch in your biceps and shoulders.
  4. Hold this stretch for 30–40 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

3. Cobra Pose

This stretch helps to relieve tightness in your abdominals, chest, and shoulders.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands directly under your shoulders, fingers facing forward, and arms drawn in tightly next to your chest.
  2. Press into your hands and squeeze your elbows into your torso as you lift your head, chest, and shoulders.
  3. You can lift your torso partway, halfway, or all the way up.
  4. Keep your elbows slightly bent.
  5. You can let your head drop back to deepen the pose.
  6. Hold this position for 30–60 seconds.
  7. Repeat 1 or 2 times.

4. Seated butterfly stretch

This stretch targets your inner thighs, hips, and lower back.

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and your abs engaged.
  2. Place the soles of your feet together in front of you. Let your knees bend out to the sides.
  3. Place your hands on your feet as you pull your heels toward you, letting your knees relax and inch closer to the floor.
  4. Take a deep breath, and hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.

5. Head-to-knee forward bend

Use this stretch for the muscles in your back, groin, hamstrings, and calves.

  1. Sit on a yoga mat or other comfortable surface.
  2. Extend your left leg out in front of you, and place the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.
  3. Inhale and lift your arms overhead.
  4. Exhale as you lengthen your spine and bend forward at your hips.
  5. Rest your hands on your foot, legs, or the floor.
  6. Hold this pose for up to a minute.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side.

Although it can sometimes be tempting to skip stretching after a workout, there are many reasons not to overlook it.

Not only can static stretching improve your flexibility and range of motion, it can also help your muscles recover faster after a workout, leading to less pain and stiffness.

Static stretching is also a great way to release stress and tension in your muscles, which can help you feel more relaxed.

Talk to your doctor if you have any health concerns about stretching, especially if you have an injury or medical condition.