Anyone who has ever played any sports has probably heard, or knows, that stretching is good for you. That you have to stretch before a game to warm-up to prevent injuries and to perform better. And we also have to stretch after the game to try to avoid the muscle soreness. It´s something everyone has done, it´s sacred and it works……….. or doesn´t it?
Well, I hate having to do this again but stretching has not been proven to do ANY of these!! Stretching before a game does not prevent injuries, does not warm you up, does not make you perform better (it actually does the opposite) and it does not avoid muscle soreness (1-12)!!
Researchers have discovered in recent years, that static stretching can lessen jumpers heights and sprinters speeds without reducing people´s chances of hurting themselves. They also found that static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles by almost 5.5 percent(5-6)!! So, for all those that lift weights and want to lift and train harder, you may want to stop stretching before a lift from now on.
But, what about stretching after the activity, that helps for sure? You have to stretch after an intense work-out, if not, you are not going to be able to move the day after. But, that is not true!! Evidence suggests that stretching is completely useless for preventing muscle soreness (8,9). In fact, studies show that almost nothing can prevent muscle soreness (8-10).So what the hell is stretching good for? Well, it makes you more flexible but, remember, more flexible doesn´t mean anything in the sense of preventing injuries(11-13). And it feels great! Also, stretching could affect the peripheral and central nervous system. Meaning, the novel stimulation (stretching) may help the brain downregulate the perceived threat of current stimuli and thus decrease the muscle tension that may be causing you pain.
Ok, then what should we do before we engage in a physical activity? Warm-up, by trying to imitate the activity that you are going to perform but a lower level. For example, if I´m going for a light run, walking can be a good warm-up. Do mobility drills, move the extremities you are going to use for that physical activity, for example if I´m going to play tennis, I would do mobility drills for the shoulder and arm area. In simple words: warm-up dynamically by moving the muscles that will be called upon in your workout.
In conclusion, stretching feels great and improves flexibility, and if those are your goals then you should be stretching. But if you are stretching because you think you are going to warm-up, prevent injuries, perform better and prevent muscle soreness, then you are mistaken.
Hoped you enjoyed it. Until next time.
- Shrier.Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.1999
- Herbert et al. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. British Medical Journal. 2002
- Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB. The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and mata-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J SPorts Med 2013.
- Costa PB, Ryan Ed, Herda TJ, Walter AA, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque and the hamstrings-to-quadriceps conventional and functional ratios. Scand J.Med Sci Sports, 2013 Feb;23(1):38-45.
- Pope et al. A randomized trial of preercise stretching for the prevention of lower-limb injury. Medicine Science in Sports Exercise.2000.
- Kay et al. Effect of Acute Static Stretch on Maximal Muscle Performance: A Systematic Review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.2011.
- Gergley JC. Acute effect of passive static stretching on lower-body strength in moderately trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):973-7.
- Lund et al. The effect of passive stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness, and other detrimental effects following eccentric exercise.Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 1998.
- Cheung et al. Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors.Sports Medicine 2003 .
- Weber et al. The Effects of Three Modalities on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 1994.
- Hart. Effect of stretching on sport injury risk: a review. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. 2005
- Beckett et al. Effects of Static Stretching on Repeated Sprint and Change of Direction Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009
- Sandler R, Sui X, Church T, Fritz S, Beattie P, Blair S. Are flexibility and muscle-strengthening activities associated with a higher risk of developing low back pain. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport: April 2013.
- The Warm Up – What should I aim to do? (irelandstrengthandconditioning.wordpress.com)
- When & How to Stretch, Warm-Up and Cool-down (naturalhealthyconcepts.com)
- Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching… New School vs Ol’ School (runwithcoachjoaquin.wordpress.com)