Static stretching does not help in most cases

June 12, 2014


A flurry of recent studies have pointed toward static stretching pitfalls--the act of stretching a muscle fully and holding it for several seconds.

A flurry of recent studies have pointed toward several pitfalls of static stretching--the act of stretching a muscle fully and holding it for several seconds. A USA Track and Field Association study, composed of more than 2700 runners, found similar rates of injury in static stretchers versus non-static stretchers, showing that the practice did not reduce injury risk. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science and Sports reported that static stretching lowers strength by roughly 5.5 percent, decreases explosive muscle performance by roughly 2.8 percent and reduces muscle power by around 2 percent before physical activity.

The verdict is in regards to the positive effects of static stretching; there are not really that many. Static stretching done independently can increase flexibility, but the recommendation for going through the motions just to warm up muscles before an exercise is losing credibility.

Following the Scandinavian research conducted at the University of Zagreb, kinesiology professor Goran Markovic told the New York Times, "We can now say for sure that static stretching alone is not recommended as an appropriate form of warm-up,"

Other health professionals do not believe the static stretching dilemma is that black and white, however. There are a few caveats, according to some.

Do what feels comfortable
Orthopaedic surgeon Daniel Pereles, M.D., suggests the positive effects of stretching are more subjective. In conjunction with the USA Track and Field Association, Pereles found that, among over 2700 runners, stretchers who were told to switch routines and stop stretching increased their risk of injury by 40 percent. Conversely, runners who normally did not stretch and were told to begin stretching increased their risk of injury by 22 percent. 

According to Pereles, runners may be better off sticking with their own routines. "If it feels good for you to stretch before you run, then continue if you have the time," Pereles said. "But if it doesn't feel good, and you like to run and then stretch, or not stretch at all, then that's fine too."

Ultimately, static stretching can be beneficial after exercising in order to relieve the pain of a tight muscle, but it is not recommended before physical activity, save for exercisers who routinely stretch before a work out. 

Warm up without static stretching
The positive effects of dynamic stretching--the act of stretching by simulating an intended activity's motion--is gaining popularity amongst sports professionals and doctors. According to a study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, dynamic stretching can actually enhance power and performance.

Dynamic stretches include activities like leg swings, jumping jacks, high knee sprints and other more motion-intensive warm up exercises.

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