When I was in high school, PE always began with stretching exercises. All through life, I’ve stretched before a run or other cardio. At one point, I read some material on the subject that said you should never stretch a cold muscle, so I began warming up and then stopping for a stretch. Well, just last week, I had a conversation with another runner and she told me you shouldn’t stretch at all before.
So, I was thoroughly confused. Aren’t you?
I love it when I learn something new when I’m researching a blog post! Let’s condense two-hours worth of research into a few paragraphs:
Static Stretching before your workout, is not advised by experts anymore, period.
This is the one area with unanimous agreement. Static stretching is the kind of stretch that you used to do in the old PE class: holding one muscle in a stretch, without movement. This kind of stretching can actually hinder your workout, not enhance it. Studies have shown performance to actually suffer from static stretching before games of athletes.
There is zero evidence that stretching prevents injury or improves performance.
I was very shocked to find out that stretching has no impact on injury prevention, no matter when it’s done. I was taught, through the years, by various instructors and personal trainers, that stretching was key to injury avoidance. I was also told it would release lactic acid from my muscles and prevent my soreness, overall. Hmmmm…
Well, everywhere I turned for research, the same facts kept re-appearing. Stretching does not help. And in one article, I found a small study at the University of Nebraska, that suggested less flexible runners were faster. So not only does it state stretching will not improve your performance, but may very well, hinder it.
Dynamic stretching is advised by some fitness experts, but only after a warm up session.
Dynamic stretching is stretching in motion, like arm circles, trunk twists, etc… I’ve found conflicting rhetoric on this subject. Those that recommend it, say you should dynamic stretch, after your warm up. So, brisk walk for 5-minutes, then dynamic stretch.
What I take away from all of this:
I’m not willing to abandon stretching and flexibility all together. It does seem to help my body to be less stiff and a little more agile. I also believe it helps with range of motion, which helps you to better strength train and should not be forgotten all together. However, I will stop stretching before my runs and see if I notice any difference. I will instead, stretch at the end of my runs and other cardio, as well as at the end of all of my strength training exercises. I think there are benefits to a great stretching routine.
Or, if you prefer a yoga class once or twice a week, that will suffice too. I personally, am not a yoga fan. The timing of the stretch, doesn’t seem important, as long as it’s not at the beginning. In other words, if you don’t stretch after workouts, but instead, stretch at the end of each day, that works just as well. I think improved flexibility is the goal, so the timing is unimportant if it’s not going to prevent injury.