To Stretch or Not To Stretch

Are you ever about to start a tennis match or go for a run and you think, do I need to stretch first?  Recent evidence has found that typical stretching techniques do not necessarily prevent injuries, but actually can impair speed and strength in some individuals.  By typical stretching techniques, we are referring to “static stretching,” meaning, stretching muscles until the point when they just begin to hurt and then holding it briefly.

One study conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that stretching before lifting weights made individuals feel off balance and weaker during their workout.  Another study based on 104 people who stretched before they exercised left them 5.5% weaker during their workout.  And yet another study was conducted on fit men.  Those who stretched before they lifted weights lifted 8.3% less than those that did not.  Who would’ve thought?

More recently, trainers are focusing on longer bouts of post workout recovery stretching and less time on pre-workout stretching.  They would suggest just a brief stretch prior to the workout.  So how did stretching before a workout become such a permanent fixture in our pre-workout routine?  Too often than not, stretching has been equated with warming up of the muscles, when really, other routines are needed for warming up the muscles.

So what is it that can make stretching potentially more harmful than good?  Think of our muscles like a rubber band. Too much stretching and the band loses elasticity and won’t reshape back to its original place.  Similarly, muscles can lose elasticity if they are overworked. So instead of stretching too much prior to working out, exchange those stretches for warm up exercises such as jumping jacks. This can make your muscles ready to jump into activity, but not be too overworked to cause a potential injury.