Stretching is essential for muscle health. Even so, it’s a practice that’s often forgotten — or outright ignored — in fitness regimens.

Before embarking on your next run or studio session, it’s important to know which stretches do what and when to utilize them.

Dynamic stretches are best pre-workout because they “loosen up the joints, tendons and ligaments through motion,” says Jim Loperfido, owner of CrossFit Solace.

These warm-up stretches are crucial to athletic performance, he says. “A dynamic warm-up routine turns on the muscles to be used in the succeeding workout, instead of shutting them off.”

Loperfido recommends static stretching after workouts “when our muscles tend to be warmer, more lubricated and easier to manipulate without tearing the tissue,” he says. “Creating length in soft tissue allows us to achieve better joint mobility and range.”

To get the most out of a series of stretches, it’s best to tailor them to a specific sport or need, which varies per person. Regardless, it’s a practice people of all fitness levels should do.

“The more we move into these positions, which our otherwise sedentary lifestyles may prevent, the more our joints and tissues become lubricated and free,” Loperfido says.

In addition to improving flexibility, coordination and balance, lengthening tight muscles can help correct posture. Stress can also be reduced when tension is released from stiff muscles.

“Static stretching, and holding for at least 2 minutes per movement, is a great prescription to alleviate the residual tension post-workout, but can also be used to relax,” Loperfido says.