Stretching won’t prevent injury or sore muscles before or after exercise. Stretching won’t even help you “warm up”. So what is stretching good for?
People like to stretch. It feels good. It makes you feel like you are doing something good for your body. If you look around the gym and pay attention – where most people have no idea what the heck they are doing – you see people stretch as if it’s expected of them. It has been programmed into us from a young age throughout school gymnasiums.
Everyone assumes that stretching is the right thing to do. But how useful is it really? Well, it just so turns out….
Stretching won’t prevent muscle soreness:
Researchers looked at 10 relevant randomised trials looking at the effect of stretching before or after physical activity on muscle soreness. The studies produced very consistent findings – there was minimal or no effect on the muscle soreness experienced between half a day and three days after the physical activity.
The best available evidence indicates stretching does not reduce muscle soreness. However there are other justifications for stretching,” they wrote. “Some evidence suggests that once muscle soreness has developed stretching may provide a transient relief of soreness: some people stretch to reduce risk of injury, others stretch to enhance athletic or sporting performance, and yet others stretch because it gives them a sense of well-being. The current review does not provide any evidence of an effect or otherwise of stretching on risk of injury, performance, or well-being.
The evidence derived from mainly laboratory-based studies of stretching indicate that muscle stretching does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness in young healthy adults.
[Even more: Link, ]
Stretching won’t prevent injury. Stretching actually promotes injury:
Most of the studies that show increased flexibility and range of motion with stretching fail to address one thing: The problem with stretching is that muscles become too loose, and weaker, allowing the associated joint to move in a wider range of motion.
That’s extremely bad, since heavy lifting usually employs your full range of motion, you need your muscles to be able to stabilize the joint in place, not give it more range. I can see now how easy it would be for many lifters who stretch to get rotator cuff damage from heavy bench presses. Increased range of motion puts more stress on the joint, increasing the risk of injury.
Damaging the muscle through stretching can also have an adverse affect on an athlete’s gait. The loss of smooth efficient movement puts stress on virtually all structures – ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. They body tries to compensate for this irregular movement, and in doing so uses up more energy, reducing ones performance.
A recent study showed how stretching can result in poor running economy. increasing energy consumption during an endurance event, and decreasing performance.
Stretching will reduce muscular power:
In this study, acute bouts of static stretching have been shown to impair performance. Most published studies have incorporated static stretching that stressed the muscle(s) to the point of discomfort (POD). There are very few studies that have examined the effects of submaximal intensity (less than POD) static stretching on subsequent performance.
Ten participants were pre-tested by performing two repetitions of three different stretches to assess range of motion (ROM) and two repetitions each of five different types of jumps. Following pre-testing, participants were stretched four times for 30 s each with 30 s recovery for the quadriceps, hamstrings and plantar flexors at 100% (POD), 75% and 50% of POD or a control condition. Five minutes following the stretch or control conditions, they were tested post-stretch with the same stretches and jumps as the pre-test. All three stretching intensities adversely affected jump heights.
With data collapsed over stretching intensities, there were significant decreases in jump height of 4.6% (P = 0.01), 5.7% (P < 0.0001), 5.4% (P = 0.002), 3.8% (P = 0.009) and 3.6% (P = 0.008) for the drop jump, squat jump, countermovement jump (CMJ) to a knee flexion of 70 degrees , CMJ using a preferred jump strategy and short amplitude CMJ respectively. An acute bout of maximal or submaximal intensity stretching can impair a variety of jumping styles and based on previous research, it is hypothesized that changes in muscle compliance may play a role.
So, when is stretching beneficial, if at all?
One thing some studies do show, is that stretching with no other exercise following is able to significantly improve performance.
Note: Statistical significance – means the likelihood that a finding or a result is caused by something other than just chance. (i.e. not a large amount, but just enough to matter) Just sayin’…
This study showed that, in the ascence of any other exercise, stretching has some benefit. Simply stretching the muscles had a training effect. The trainees got faster, stronger, and more flexible. The article suggests that stretching may be a good introduction for those who are out of shape or just beginning an exercise routine, or for those not yet fit enough to do other types of training.
Conclusion: “This study suggests that chronic static stretching exercises by themselves can improve specific exercise performances”
My opinion is that stretching should be done only by those in rehab or those who are unable to do regular training. If you are able to train, however, you probably should train, since results will likely be much greater than just static stretching. Plus, stretching just sucks!
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