How important is stretching?

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by RCizzle65, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    I agree with the heat and cold being a factor. I am fine in 80+ weather with a brief warm up. If it starts to get under 60, I need a bit more time.
     
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  2. floide

    floide Rookie

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    It's simple: If I stretch, everything's ok; if I don't, aches.

    So, it's very important. +342425
     
    #52
  3. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Does Stretching Prevent Injuries?
    Everyone knows that flexibility is good for runners, right? Too bad medical research doesn't agree. By Amby Burfoot From the August 2004 issue of Runner's World




    Editors are generally a timid and bookish lot. You'll find few Purple Hearts in our ranks, and few of us trying out for Fear Factor. In two decades at Runner's World, I've gone to the brink of combat just once.

    It happened 10 years ago at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. I was attending a slideshow on "Stretching and Running Injuries," and the speaker kept making fun of Runner's World. His data on Honolulu marathoners indicated that runners who stretched got injured more often than those who didn't. After each of his statistical slides, he'd project pages of Runner's World with articles like "9 Best Stretches for Runners." The message was clear: the editors of this magazine must be lost in space.

    Hey, wait a minute, that's me. When the lights came on, I rushed to the microphone, huffing, puffing, and expanding my chest to its full 38 inches. I felt my testosterone surging. This dude was in trouble.

    "Thanks for the fascinating paper," I said. "I'm just curious. If stretching doesn't work, why do runners keep doing it?"

    So much for my Terminator fantasy.

    These days, as the running population keeps booming, the question of stretching's value is more important than ever. No wonder a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control received so much attention. It, too, cast doubt on the effectiveness of stretching, concluding, "There is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine prerun or postrun stretching to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes."

    I always thought the folks at the CDC worked around the clock on SARS, HIV, and the biohazards of sci-fi movies. These people have time for sore Achilles tendons?

    Stephen Thacker, M.D., the study's head author, assures me he has spent many years in public health surveillance, epidemiology, and infectious diseases. But, he says, obesity is costing the United States more than $100 billion a year, and the CDC believes that more exercise could reduce this healthcare burden.
    "We want to promote physical activity," says Dr. Thacker, "but we have to look at all the things that either encourage or discourage exercise, such as the amount of time it takes to exercise, and the injuries you can get. We look for the science before we make any recommendations."

    For Dr. Thacker's paper "The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature," he and his colleagues pored over nearly 100 other published medical studies on the subject. Their key conclusions: stretching does increase flexibility; the highest-quality studies indicate that this increased flexibility doesn't prevent injuries; few athletes need extreme flexibility to perform their best (perhaps just gymnasts and figure skaters); and more injuries would be prevented by better warmups, by strength training, and by balance exercises, than by stretching.

    Ian Shrier, M.D., a past president of the Canadian Society of Sports Medicine, has been drilling into the stretching literature since the early 1990s. In a 1999 paper titled "Stretching Before Exercise Does Not Reduce the Risk of Local Muscle Injury," Dr. Shrier lists five reasons why stretching shouldn't be expected to work. Among them: stretching won't change eccentric muscle activity (when a muscle simultaneously contracts and lengthens, as in downhill running), which is believed to cause most injuries; stretching can produce damage at the skeletal level; and stretching appears to mask muscle pain, which could cause the exerciser to ignore this key pre-injury signal. He concludes: "The basic science and clinical evidence today suggests that stretching before exercise is more likely to cause injury than to prevent it."

    This is certain to come as a shock to many runners. In a recent Runner's World Online Poll, 89 percent of respondents said they try to make stretching "a regular part" of their program. Stretching has worked for them, so why should they stop? "I was sidelined with an IT band injury, but my PT taught me some new stretches," one runner wrote. "Since then, I have not had any problems." Many others stretch simply because it feels good.

    It's easy to understand why flexibility has fans. I want to be flexible--not rigid--in my life, especially in my thinking. Likewise, we all know that tall buildings and long bridges are built to be flexible. Their flexibility enhances their strength in the face of hurricanes and earthquakes. No doubt: Flexibility is good.

    Until you consider runners' relationship with "motion," which is another word for flexibility. Runners try to avoid too much motion. We wear orthotics to prevent overpronation. We wear knee straps to prevent too much lateral movement. We do crunches to build a rock-hard midsection. Flexibility sounds like a great idea, but has definite drawbacks for runners.

    The best research on stretching and injury prevention has been done with military recruits. Military training has much in common with exercise, and the Army has a huge interest in keeping injuries to a minimum. In one study, titled "Physical Training and Exercise-Related Injuries," a U.S. Army research team found that trainees with the highest and lowest flexibility had the highest injury rates. They were, respectively, 2.2- and 2.5-times more likely to incur an injury than trainees with average flexibility. Apparently, when it comes to flexibility and injuries, don't try to be all that you can be. Settle for average.

    Surprisingly, the best-known stretching-for-runners team in the United States, the father-son duo of Jim and Phil Wharton, agree with the medical research conclusions. "We don't even use the word 'stretching' anymore," the Whartons say. "It conjures up an image of static stretching--of holding still for too long, like the tension created by a tug of war. That can actually weaken the muscle-tendon connection."

    The Whartons promote AI ("active, isolated") flexibility exercises. These exercises move the muscle and joint gently and progressively to the point of slight tension, then immediately release the tension, and then repeat 10 times. There's no static-stretching hold for 10 to 30 seconds. "This promotes healthy blood circulation and lubrication to the joint," say the Whartons, whose fans include Deena Kastor, Alan Webb, and Khalid Khannouchi.

    Since older runners would seem to have much to gain from stretching, I call Ed Whitlock, who last fall became the first 70+ runner to go sub-3:00 in the marathon. But Whitlock is afraid of setting a bad example. You see, he doesn't stretch. "I get the greatest return on my time by piling on miles," he says. "I don't want to dump on stretching. We all need to find our own way. But you can do too much and get injured."

    The CDC's Dr. Thacker agrees. "If the time you spend stretching," he says, "causes you to lose time from something else--more running, strength training, or stability exercises--then you might be better off spending the time on that something else."

    Or take the middle road: stretch in the evening while you're watching TV. I like the Wharton approach, where you keep moving through your stretches--into them and out of them. That seems like a natural way to make you feel better. And it won't cut into your training time.
     
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  4. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2011) — Stretching before a run neither prevents nor causes injury, according to a study presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).













    More than 70 million people worldwide run recreationally or competitively, and recently there has been controversy regarding whether runners should stretch before running, or not at all. This study included 2,729 runners who run 10 or more miles per week. Of these runners, 1,366 were randomized to a stretch group, and 1,363 were randomized to a non-stretch group before running. Runners in the stretch group stretched their quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius/soleus muscle groups. The entire routine took 3 to 5 minutes and was performed immediately before running.

    The study found that stretching before running neither prevents nor causes injury. In fact, the most significant risk factors for injury included the following:
    •history of chronic injury or injury in the past four months;
    •higher body mass index (BMI); and
    •switching pre-run stretching routines (runners who normally stretch stopping and those who did stretch starting to stretch before running).

    "As a runner myself, I thought stretching before a run would help to prevent injury," said Daniel Pereles, MD, study author and orthopaedic surgeon from Montgomery Orthopedics outside Washington, DC. "However, we found that the risk for injury was the same for men and women, whether or not they were high or low mileage runners, and across all age groups. But, the more mileage run or the heavier and older the runner was, the more likely he or she was likely to get injured, and previous injury within four months predisposed to even further injury," he added.

    Runners who typically stretch as part of their pre-run routine and were randomized not to stretch during the study period were far more likely to have an injury. "Although all runners switching routines were more likely to experience an injury than those who did not switch, the group that stopped stretching had more reported injuries, implying that an immediate shift in a regimen may be more important than the regimen itself," he added.

    The most common injuries sustained were groin pulls, foot/ankle injuries, and knee injuries. There was no significant difference in injury rates between the runners who stretched and the runners who didn't for any specific injury location or diagnosis.

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    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
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  5. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2007) — Studies show that stretching before or after exercise has little or no effect on muscle soreness between half a day and three days later, a team of Cochrane Researchers has found.


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    •Fitness
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    •Stretching
    •Sore muscles after exercising
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    Many people stretch before starting to exercise, and some stretch again at the end of a period of exertion. The aim may be to prevent injury, to promote higher performance, or to limit the chances of feeling stiff in the days after the exercise.

    Two researchers set out to assess whether stretching could reduce stiffness. They identified 10 relevant trials, each of which involved between 10 and 30 people. Nine of the studies had been carried out in laboratory situations and stretching varied from between 40 seconds and 10 minutes.

    The researchers used a 100-point scale to assess stiffness after exercise. They concluded that the estimated effects of stretching were extremely small, with most estimates showing that stretching reduced soreness by less than 1 point on the 100-point scale. The size of the effect was similar if stretching was performed before or after activity.

    "The data were remarkably consistent," says lead researcher Robert Herbert from the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney, Australia, "The available evidence suggests that stretching before or after exercise does not prevent muscle soreness in young healthy adults."

    The researchers do, however, believe that there is a need to see whether stretching can have an effect on people in the community who have reduced levels of flexibility.



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  6. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    I believe that there are two major issues that are being discussed together but should be separated.

    1) Stretching to Correct Posture Issues. The muscles/tendons have some resting length. If that length is too short for proper posture the risk of injury goes up. I believe that the way to correct this is with evaluation and corrective stretches and maybe strengthening of antagonists.

    2) Stretching Before or After Exercise. The muscles/tendons have, before or after exercise, probably different resting lengths, temperatures, and degrees of joint lubrication. It seems reasonable that the exercise might be better if it were known what to do before and after for performance and to reduce injury risk. The warm up and stretching interact - its not clear what the roles of stretching and warm up are.

    Taking stats from extreme runners might not be a good idea because maybe 'failing to allow healing' is a big contributor to their injury rates. These running enthusiasts, like tennis enthusiasts, seem suspect to me regarding injury rates.

    I have had experience with stretching to correct posture. I'm not certain that the changes I've seen are due to targeted stretching but I believe that they were.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
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  7. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Comparing an adrenaline boost to a warm up is assenine.

    Comparing a warm up for distance running to tennis is even more assenine.

    Count me as a non-Freddy client. I'll do movement prep before a planned workout every time. I won't stretch or warm up evacuating my family from a burning building. Because I'm not a dip$hit.
     
    #57
  8. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    By the time a fireman get's into his rediculously heavy and awkward clothing, runs to the hole, drops down the pole and runs to the truck, he's warmed up. Then when he arrives at the scene, he has to set up the hoses, dragging tons of gear to the fire, and he's sweating before he turns on the hose.
    I see all those surfers stretching on the beach before their heats. Heck, ever put on a full wetsuit? You're tired and sweating even if it's 6AM in the morning, and it's 50 degree outside.
     
    #58
  9. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    warmup and loosen up prior to playing, then do the stretching after playing
    while still warm.
    Very Important for lower back etc....!
     
    #59
  10. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    likely because it is mostly done wrong. You raise risk of injury by stretching hard prior
    to exercise.
     
    #60
  11. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    waste of time




    Does stretching before or after exercise prevent injuries and soreness?



    Q. Does stretching before or after exercise prevent injuries and soreness?

    A. No, despite what many coaches still say. A review of more than 350 studies published over the last 40 years concludes that stretching prior to exercise doesn’t prevent injury in competitive or recreational athletes.

    The study, published in March in “Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise,’’ the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, was led by Dr. Stephen B. Thacker, an epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Promotion of stretching “has been based on intuition and observation rather than scientific evidence,’’ said Thacker. Stretching can increase muscle and joint flexibility, he noted, but there is “little to no relationship between stretching before a workout and injuries or post-exercise pain.’


    Most injuries, he said, occur during muscle contractions within the normal range of joint motion, which raises doubts about how increasing range of motion could lower the risk of injury. Stretching helps maintain normal range of motion, which is important, especially as people get older, Thacker said.

    Exercise physiologist William J. Evans of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said that “few studies have demonstrated the benefits of stretching.’’ Most people who do stretch, he said, do so incorrectly, typically bouncing and lunging, which do not increase flexibility. To stretch properly, you should stretch slowly and hold it for at least 30 seconds.

    Dr. Edward Phillips, director of outpatient medical services at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network, cautioned that stretching can be harmful for weight lifters, particularly if they do it just before or in between sets of resistance training.

    Stretching reduces the tensile strength of the muscle and is at odds with the need to contract it forcefully to overcome the resistance and thereby strengthen the muscle, said Phillips, who is also co-author of the “ACSM’s Exercise is Medicine: A Clinician’s Guide to Exercise Prescription.’’

    First there was Bob Anderson static and ballstic next PNF then AI now Dynamic before and static after. I stopped stretching my clients back in 1999. I did stretch them from 1991 to 1999. Now I rather spend there time and mine getting them in better shape with more strength training and cardio.

    I put stretching with massage, ice baths and hottubs a big waste of time for sports recovery. If u just want to relax get a massage with a happy ending lol!!
     
    #61
  12. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Stretching doesn’t prevent or reduce muscle soreness

    October 18th, 2011
    Goto commentsLeave a comment



    [UPDATE: Welcome Reddit Running and Running Times folks! In answer to the question on the Running Times homepage, 11 of the 12 studies in this review used static stretching, while one used PNF stretching.]

    The British Journal of Sports Medicine just published an analysis of the most recent Cochrane Review on stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness. The title says is all: “Stretching before or after exercise does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness.” This isn’t a surprise — while the exact mechanism that leads to DOMS is still up for debate, it’s pretty clear that it involves microscopic damage to muscle fibres and the subsequent repair process. Once those muscle fibres are damaged, no amount of post-exercise stretching can magically undamage them!

    The analysis incorporated 12 studies, including one very large randomized trial with 2,377 participants. There was no difference between pre-exercise and post-exercise stretching in the effect on soreness. Of the 12 studies, 11 used static stretching and one used PNF stretching. Here’s a forest plot of some of the results, from the BJSM summary:



    As the Cochrane Review notes, people generally stretch for one of three reasons:
    1.reduce the risk of injury;
    2.enhance athletic performance;
    3.reduce soreness after exercise.

    There’s plenty of evidence that the second point is misguided: stretching actually seems to harm athletic performance in many contexts. Now this Cochrane Review reaffirms that the third point is misguided too — and the BJSM reviewers make it clear that, in their opinion, this isn’t one of those tentative findings that might be modified by future research:


    The best available evidence indicates that stretching does not reduce muscle soreness. These findings were consistent across settings (laboratory vs field studies), types and intensity of stretching, populations (athletic or untrained adults of both genders) and study quality. As such, they are unlikely to be changed by further studies.

    That leaves the first point — reducing injury. There’s still a little wiggle room here. Numerous studies have failed to find any reduction in injuries following stretching.










    Hilary Curtis


    October 18th, 2011
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
    #62
  13. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    stretching is bs!!

    Adrenaline is a warmup and a stretch? Does Adrenaline prevent injuries and Doms? I just saying some people have certain jobs like cops, firemen and other jobs have zero time to warmup and must perform.

    Do Not Stretch! 10 Reasons Not to Stretch

    January 25, 2012 By Sock Doc 39 Comments


    Here’s some fun reasons not to stretch; some more serious than others. If you’re overly sensitive about stretching, (noted in #2), you can catch-up on the Sock Doc “Stop Stretching!” – or continue to stretch.
    1.Stretching is exercise for the muscles like sea water is hydration for the body. When you’re desperate for relief, it feels so right but it’s just so wrong.
    2.All athletes, especially runners, are so passionate about stretching. They defend it like their political association, religion, or family. I think many of them may have pictures of their kids in their wallets doing all types of cool stretches that they show their coworkers every day at the water cooler. “Look at my little one sitting on both his elbows!”
    3.Runners will follow any trend they think will make them run faster. Whether it’s a new supplement, pair of socks, pair or shoes, custom orthotics, or stretching. They’re the first in line for Kool-Aid.
    4.Stretching is a conditioned behavior, not one we are innately born with. I see my kids run, jump, climb, throw things, and carry objects of all sizes. They move well, and efficiently. I’ve never seen them stretch. Their developing nervous systems know better.
    5.The day I see my dog holding a static stretch is the day I’ll start stretching too.
    6.Flexibility is a reflection of overall health and fitness. Stretching does absolutely nothing for health or fitness. It’s not exercise. It’s not a warm-up or a cool-down. And it definitely doesn’t substitute for restful sleep or a wholesome diet which will lead to natural flexibility.
    7.Yoga is not stretching. Stretching is not yoga. Enough of that claim.
    8.Make sure you stretch if you want to weaken muscles, promote injuries, decrease performance, delay tissue healing, and have absolutely way too much free time.
    9.Stretching reduces injuries and improves endurance performance just like certain shoes will make you run or jump faster. Neither claim is true.
    10.I enjoy watching runners stretch. They must stretch because they think they will run faster. I bet they believe in Sasquatch too.
     
    #63
  14. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    I'm never stretching or warming up again.

    I never realized how bad these things were.

    Thanks Freddy!!
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
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  15. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think FastFreddy is missing some points about stretching before going to war......
    Warriors are stretched fully from carrying all that heavy gear to battle, before they throw their first spears or swing their first swords.
    A group who surprises a sleeping group has a huge advantage, because the sleeping group has not warmed up, while the attacking group had to run yards thru the forest to get there.....sweaty and fully tired.
    If a sweaty and fully tired group can defeat a fully rested group who just woke up, I think warming up is considered an advantage. :shock::shock:
     
    #65
  16. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    worn out or warmed up

    In a perfect world it would be nice to warmup for 15-20 mins on my spin bike but every fight I have had in my life I had zero time to warmup. How about an Army just standing there while the other army has to sprint 500 yards across a field. Rested vs pooped out. I ran all my marathons without any warmup in 53F and ran as fast as 3:09 so it has no effect on me. Warmup is all mental, alot of european lifters need way less warmup sets than USA lifters. It comes down to how u been trained to train. Cooldowns r fine if u have the time to get rid of latic acid but I don't even do cooldowns unless I have extra time. If I have any muscle stiffness I could do some light cardio 60 percent of my max.

    I find it more important to key on sleep 10 hrs a night, food and drink replacement to perform my best.
     
    #66
  17. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    10 hours a night? If I slept that much, I'd have no time to amass my financial fortune to retire on time rich and happy.
     
    #67
  18. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Quite a Stretch

    Stretching research clearly shows that a stretching habit isn’t good for much of anything that people think it is

    9,000 words, published 2000, updated Aug 1st, 2012
    by Paul Ingraham, Vancouver, Canada

    SHOW SUMMARY

    Stretching is a comfortable and reassuring ritual for many people — it’s simple, it feels good, and it seems to promise easy benefits. For countless more, athletes and couch potatoes alike, stretching weighs on their conscience — one more thing they are supposed to find the time to do. Can all these people be barking up the wrong tree? Sure they can! And they are.

    I stretch regularly. My personal favourites: hamstrings, hip flexors, neck, chest, lumbar muscles, and the deep gluteal muscles. But I don’t believe it’s doing much for me. I am as stiff and inflexible as I have ever been!



    Why is it that many Kenyans don’t stretch? Why was legendary coach Arthur Lydiard not a fan of stretching? Why does Galloway say, “In my experience runners who stretch are injured more often, and when they stop stretching, the injuries often go away”?

    — Bob Cooper, Runner’s World Magazine1


    What a sensible article, and about time somebody exploded the stretching myth! I remember as a schoolboy in South Africa forty years ago always being told to run slowly to warm up for our various rugby, cricket, and soccer games — nobody ever told us to stretch, and over the past ten or so years I’ve been puzzled to see this come in as dogma. As a runner of marathons for years and a GP with injured patients, I’ve never been able to figure out how on earth stretching the heck out of muscles, ligaments, and nerves could (a) warm them up or (b) do the slightest bit of good, and have sometimes been given “the jaundiced eye” when I’ve suggested such to my patients.

    — Peter Houghton, MD, Vancouver (reader feedback)


    I am a soccer referee, and mostly by happy accident began substituting what you call “mobilizing” for various stretches prior to my matches, and I find this does an excellent job of stimulating the muscles, whereas after only stretching I still seem to be tight for the first several minutes. Then I read this article, which corroborates what I have found in practice!

    — Carlos Di Stefano, soccer referee (reader feedback)

    There is no “truth” about stretching

    The truth about stretching is that there is no truth about stretching to be had: it’s just too complicated a subject. There are too many mysteries and variables in muscle and connective tissue physiology, too many different stretching methods, and too many and vague goals for it to ever be possible to categorically say that stretching does or does not “work.” What kind of stretching, and for what? For every answer about stretching there are ten more questions, and for every safe assumption there’s a selection of exceptions.

    However, plentiful recent research now shows that stretching as we know it — the kind of typical stretching that the average person does at the gym, or even the kind of stretching that most athletes do — is mostly a waste of time for most commonly identified goals. For instance, articles published in recent years, reviewing hundreds of studies, have concluded that there isn’t much evidence that any widely practice form of stretching prevents injury or muscle soreness23 — arguably the single most common goal of stretching. Adding significantly to the credibility of those reviews, a major year 2000 clinical study of many hundreds of soldiers showed no sign of benefit from and even some risks to stretching.4 Some of this evidence, and similar evidence, is nicely summarized in a recent segment of a CBC Radio One science show (see Exorcizing Myths about Exercise).

    About footnotes. There are many footnotes here. Click to make them “pop up” without losing your place. There are two kinds: fun and boring. Try one!1





    2



    Trainers, coaches and health care professionals are starting to insist on making recommendations based on evidence, or at least on a really convincing physiological rationale … and stretching just has not held up well under that pressure. Nor is it even a new idea that stretching might not be all that helpful. Consider this 39-year-old passage from an excellent 1983 Sports Illustrated article about David Moorcroft, a British middle and long distance runner and 5,000 metres world record holder:5


    Stacked in a corner of Anderson’s [Moorcroft’s coach] office are bundles of scientific papers. “I’ve tried to interpret the findings of the best physiologists and translate them into sound practices,” says Anderson. “That’s made me a radical. We’ve turned some coaching sacred cows on their ear.”

    For one, Anderson dismisses the stretching that most runners do. “It’s rubbish,” he says. “The received idea that by touching your toes you lengthen the fibers in your hamstrings is wrong. Soft tissue stretching like that is a learned skill and doesn’t carry over into running. Dave requires a flexibility, a joint mobility, but running fast is the right kind of stretching for him.”

    The world-record holder mutely demonstrates his suppleness by reaching toward his toes. His fingertips get down to about midshin.

    'What Made Him Go So Wonderfully Mad?' So Inquired a friend of David Moorcroft after the Briton broke the world 5,000 record in an amazing performance, Moore (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

    So why are people stretching?

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  19. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Why people stretch

    When challenged, many casual stretching enthusiasts actually have a hard time explaining why they are stretching. The value of stretching has been elevated to dogma without justification. Everyone just “knows” that it’s a good thing, and they haven’t really thought about why. When pressed for reasons, most people will cough up a few predictable stretching goals. Here are the four hopeful reasons for stretching that I hear every day:6
    1.warming up
    2.prevention of injury
    3.prevention of muscle soreness
    4.flexibility7

    And sometimes you also hear:
    5.“performance enhancement” (faster sprinting, for instance)

    All of these overlapping stretching goals have serious problems. Either they have have been proven to be impossible,8 or they lack a sensible and persuasive rationale, or both … or worse. Stretching for these reasons is probably a waste of your time. Other reasons are another issue, but their importance is reduced by their rarity — it doesn’t much affect my point if stretching solves some other problem that almost no one is even trying to solve.


    Here's a crazy idea: consider reading this article before complaining about it. Since this article was published in 2000, I have received approximately hundreds of emails like this:


    How can you possibly say that stretching is useless? Evil one! Fiend! You probably hate puppies, too! How can you sleep at night?

    But I don’t say that “stretching is useless”! I swear. I say that stretching is useless for these popular reasons only — the reasons that most people think stretching is good for. There actually are things that stretching is probably good for, and I discuss them. Right here. In this article. In the paragraph directly to the left of this sidebar, even. Which people would know if they read it before sending me nasty messages. Okay?! Sheesh!

    A good example of another stretching goal is to treat muscle pain, and it is almost — but not quite — common enough to make the list above. Some therapists (and unusually well-informed laypeople) suggest that stretching is good for relieving the stiffness and discomfort cause by “muscle knots,” more technically known as trigger points. I’ve even suggested that myself at times, and there are some reasons to believe it probably has some beneficial effects. But there are important caveats: (1) despite some interesting science, it remains unclear if trigger points are a “real” thing,9, (2) self-stretching is almost certainly an imprecise, inefficient, and unreliable way of relieving trigger points,10 and (3) trying to stretch painful muscle can definitely backfire.11 This topic is addressed in much greater detail in an important sister article to this one, Stretching for Trigger Points. This article concerns itself only with examining the usual motives people have for stretching — not more precise therapeutic usages.

    Stretching does feel good, of course, and I will return to that important point later on. But this is almost never the reason that people give for stretching.


    Murmel the bunny yawning and stretching 0:17


    I stretch because it feels good. Just a couple seconds stretching this-a-way, then a couple more that-a-way, and I’m good to hop. Don’t overdo it! Holding stretches is over-rated.

    — Murmel the bunny, master stretcher

    Kinds of stretching (not just static)

    This article is emphatically not just about the inadequacies of “static” stretching.

    Many stretching advocates in 2012 are happy to pile on and criticize simple, old-school stretching — that is, elongating a muscle and then holding still for a while. They are happy to do so because they have decided that some other method of “stretching” actually does work, and therefore transcends the problems with stretching detailed here. As a result, I’m hearing a lot of this kind of reaction these days:


    Oh sure, static stretching is useless, whatever, old news, yada yada yada. But Advanced Stretching Method X is so awesome that it will not only do everything you ever hoped static stretching would do, it will also achieve all your athletic goals, cure all your aches and pains, and find your lost socks.

    I stay current with stretching research. Unfortunately, I have yet to see clear evidence that any stretching method is a clear winner at anything of much importance — no matter how “advanced.” Here’s a perfect example:

    Alternately stretching and contracting a muscle is a staple of “advanced” stretching. This is called the contract-relax (CR) method, which is part of a general strategy with the very advanced sounding name of “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation” (PNF). However, it’s really nothing fancy: CR just adds contraction. Some readers will sniff at this and say that CR is still not “advanced” stretching, but it is certainly still widely used, taught and touted as being better than humble static stretching. I see trainers using it at the gym all the time. Patients can go for physical therapy pretty much anywhere in the world, and there’s a pretty good chance the therapist will do a whole bunch of CR stretching with them, while charging about a buck a minute.

    Guess what? It doesn’t increase flexibility any more than static stretching. Science says so! A well-planned experiment tested whether or not the contraction component of a CR stretch actually makes a difference, and clearly found that it does not.12 Researchers compared a normal CR stretch of the hamstring to a modified one without any hamstring contraction (instead, some other “uninvolved, distant” muscle was contracted). The effect of both stretches was the same — “a significant moderate increase in range of motion.” In other words, it didn’t matter if the hamstring was contracted or not — with or without a contraction, the result was the same. This strongly undermines the central claim of CR-PNF stretching, and that’s being charitable. Actually, it kind of eviscerates it.

    Things that sound too good to be true … still aren’t.

    There’s also a serious problem with definitions here. Many of supposedly advanced methods of stretching are really not “stretching” at all. There are only so many things that you can change about stretching before it really becomes something else. The classic example is dynamic joint mobility drills — repeatedly moving through a range of motion (i.e. swinging your arms in a circle). Should we call that “stretching”? Perhaps. But I say no: although the kinship is clear, it’s a bit of a reach (har har), and it already has its own name. I would never look at someone doing that and think, “Behold! Stretching!”

    So I follow a simple rule: if it doesn’t involve elongating your own muscles for at least several seconds, it might be something interesting, but it’s not stretching. Ironically, this actually eliminates a number of advanced stretching methods from consideration.

    Stretching research clearly shows that stretching is not an effective warmup
     
    #69
  20. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Stretching research clearly shows that stretching is not an effective warmup

    Nothing about static stretching is more clear. Your basic quick (static) stretch warmup is one of the most studied topics in all of musculoskeletal health care and exercise science. For instance, a huge 2011 review of all the research found “overwhelming evidence that stretch durations of 30-45 seconds … imparted no significant effect” and even some evidence of harm.13

    Warming up is an unclear goal with many possible meanings. The most obvious and literal — an actual increase in tissue temperature — is a reasonable goal. It’s literally true that warm muscles function better than cold ones.

    However, body heat is generated by metabolic activity, particularly muscle contractions. And it’s impossible to raise your metabolic activity without working up a sweat, which can't be achieved by stretching alone. You simply cannot “warm up” your muscles by stretching them: that’s like trying to cook a steak by pulling on it. Instead, the best way to warm up is probably to start by doing a kinder/gentler version of the activity you have in mind: e.g., walking before you run.

    Metaphorically, “warming up” also refers to readiness for activity or body awareness. You are “warm” in this sense when you are neurologically responsive and coordinated: when your reflexes are sensitive and some adrenalin is pumping. Warmup for its own sake (i.e., without following it up with more intense exercise) is fairly pointless — the goal is to prevent injury and enhance performance. And those goals may be realistic. For instance, research has shown that a warmup routine focussed on these goals actually does provide decent insurance against the number and severity of both accidents and over-use injuries.1415

    So, warmups in this second sense is probably helpful … but does stretching warm you up in this sense? No, probably not much — certainly no more than a bunch of other exercises you could do — and quite possibly not at all. One of the most-studied warmup regimens (including one of the studies just cited), FIFA’s “The 11+” programme, notably does not include stretching. The most compelling evidence that stretching doesn’t warm you up is the evidence that shows that it doesn’t prevent injury or enhance performance (discussed below). Static stretch is somewhat stimulating to tissue, but in ways that are quite different from most actual activities.








    Warmup works

    A large study of girls’ soccer teams showed warming up can cut injury rates by about a third. Notably, the warmup that was studied, FIFA’s “11+” warmup, did not include stretching!


    Because of all this, stretching to warm up does not even qualify as “official” exercise dogma anymore — most professionals actually gave up on it many years ago, and it is passé even in the opinion of a great many more informed joggers and weekend warriors. It simply doesn’t work, and it’s hard to imagine a common fitness practice more thoroughly contradicted by the evidence and by many professionals. And yet …

    And yet I still see it all the time in the wild. I live and play on Vancouver’s famous “sea wall” — one of the best and most popular running routes in the world. I am able to constantly observe runners in their natural habitat, doing what runners do, and a great many of them participating in structured training programs and running groups, clearly being instructed by experts and coaches.

    And they stretch to warm up. In droves. So despite the evolution of professional opinion, this practice still needs to be debunked. There are still far too many people out there stretching before they run and play sports, trying to “warm up” almost exclusively by standing still and elongating muscles!

    Once again, the best way to prepare for an activity is probably just to start it slowly.

    Stretching research shows that stretching does not prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

    Another popular idea about stretching is that it prevents that insidious deep tenderness that follows a hard workout. That soreness is called “delayed onset muscle soreness,” or DOMS for short. People believe that stretching can help DOMS like it’s religion.

    I saw a similar example of this when I was in school: a science-minded instructor shared a research paper with us (something no other instructor ever did, which is shocking in itself). The paper suggested that massage therapy has no effect on the phenomenon of delayed-onset muscle soreness, and the evidence was compelling.16 But this was heretical! It was a crushing blow to one of the sacred cows of my profession, most of the class reacted angrily, and the hapless instructor was practically shouted out of the classroom.

    I think the really amazing part of that story is that the students’ popular belief was less than two years old and the only basis for it was what they’d heard from instructors in their first year massage therapy classes. Before that, most of them couldn’t have even defined “DOMS”! Yet already it was dogma, essential to their self-image as budding health professionals, a “fact” that they planned to use to promote their services, and so most of them were actually offended by the contradiction. It was a neat demonstration that most people are more interested in emotional continuity than the truth.

    People believe that stretching reduces DOMS with the same force. This does not make it true. Unfortunately, the evidence strongly suggests that stretching is completely useless for preventing DOMS. In fact, many studies have shown that nothing short of amputation can prevent DOMS171819 — and certainly not stretching.20

    Think of DOMS as a tax on exercise. As one clever commentator put it, “Only soreness can prevent soreness.”
     
    #70
  21. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Stretching research shows that stretching does not prevent injury

    According to the evidence, stretching probably does not prevent injury. As I mentioned above, this has been suggested by a combination of recent literature reviews and large clinical studies, some of which I have already cited. Here’s some more.

    In 2005, Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine published a review of the scientific evidence to date, and found that the (admittedly limited) evidence “showed stretching had no effect in reducing injuries.”21 Neither poor quality nor higher quality studies reported any injury prevention effect. Regardless of whether stretching was of individual muscles or entire groups, there was no reduction in injury rates.

    More experimental research has been done since. For instance, a 2008 study published in American Journal of Sports Medicine showed “no significant differences in incidence of injury” in soldiers doing preventative exercises.22 Half of them participated in an exercise program including 5 exercises for strength, flexibility, and coordination of the lower limbs, and 50 of those soldiers sustained overuse injuries in the lower leg, either knee pain or shin splints. The other 500 soldiers were doing nothing at all to prevent injury in the lower limbs — no specific stretching, strengthening or coordination exercises — and only 48 of them had similar injuries. There were “no significant differences in incidence of injury between the prevention group and the placebo group,” and the authors concluded that the exercises “did not influence the risk of developing overuse knee injuries or medial tibial stress syndrome in subjects undergoing an increase in physical activity.”

    However, what is clear is that the exercise regimen certainly included static stretching, and it certainly did not work any prevention miracles for some of the most common athletic injuries from the knees down. If stretching performs that poorly in such an experiment, how good can it possibly be at preventing other injuries? Probably not very.

    Here in Vancouver — a running Mecca — researchers at Simon Fraser University have done an unusually large new study of pre-run stretching, with more than 2700 participants. They found “no statistically significant difference in injury risk between the pre-run stretching and non-stretching groups.”23 Injury rates for all kinds of injuries were the same, with or without stretching. It’s almost as though stretching made no difference at all. But make up your own mind!
    Injury rates for all kinds of injuries were the same, with or without stretching. It’s almost as though stretching made no difference at all.
    I’m never surprised by such findings, because I’ve never heard a sensible explanation for how stretching can generally prevent injury. Usually, advocates have a vague notion that “longer” muscles are less likely to get strained: even if garden-variety stretching made muscles longer (which is doubtful in itself), and even if we knew exactly what kind of stretching to do (we don’t), and even if we had the time to stretch every significant muscle group, the benefits would still be relevant to only a small fraction of common sports injuries. An ankle sprain, for instance, or a blown knee — two of the most common of all injuries — probably have nothing to do with muscle length.

    In truth, there may prove to be some modest injury prevention benefits to stretching — but I imagine that they are quite specific and missed by most stretching regimens. For instance, it is likely that diligent and specific calf and arch stretching can prevent plantar fasciitis.24 But for “general” injury prevention, I can think of Five Ways To Prevent Sports Injuries that are probably more effective than stretching.

    Yes, stretching will make you more flexible … but so what?

    “I want to be more flexible,” people say. Even when they have normal range of motion in every joint. What’s this about? Why are people so determined to be more flexible? What is it you want to do with that power?

    Hardly anyone needs to be more flexible. Most people have a normal range of motion — that’s why it’s normal! Unless you are specifically frustrated because you lack sufficient range of motion in a joint to perform a specific task, you probably don’t need to be more flexible.

    Stretching can increase flexibility. It’s not easy, and it’s not good bang for buck, and it may depend on your genes — I can’t do it, which I firmly established in 2011 with a really thorough personal experiment — but a diligent effort over a period of weeks might actually increase your range of motion. And more extreme efforts produce more extreme results. Acrobats, gymnasts, yogis, contortionists, and martial artists have clearly been pushing the limits for centuries, sometimes achieving uncanny mobility. But these are highly motivated athletes with specific and exotic performance goals and stretching regimes that would definitely intimidate the rest of us, and with good reason: they often injure themselves along the way. Indeed, it’s may even be necessary to injure joints — to traumatize their capsules and ligaments — in order to get them to move that far.

    Fitness and health are not equivalent. You can be fit for a particular athletic pursuit, but that doesn’t mean you are a healthier person: high performance in a narrow category often comes at great costs (such as joint stability). Flexibility is “good for” a few things … and really not much else. It’s useful for gymnasts, for instance …








    ZOOM
     
    #71
  22. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Irony, Man

    In a dazzling display of irony, the September, 2009, issue of Runner’s World both quotes me as an expert debunking conventional wisdom about stretching, and uncritically promotes a new myth for a new generation of runners: the hip-strengthening myth.


    There is basically no hope that the average reader will know that Ferber’s advice is really weak, just as there was no hope for the last thirty years that the average person would understand how weak stretching science has been. Most will simply believe the article. About a million Runner’s World readers are going to conclude that hip strengthening “probably” works!

    “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after.” Falsehood was a sprinter long before Swift first wrote that in 1710, and little has changed in the 300 years since. So it has always been with stretching: an idea promoted with much greater confidence than has ever been justified by the evidence, and it’s only several decades later that — very slowly — the truth is catching up.

    So … is stretching good for anything?

    Probably not for the reasons or in the manner most people are stretching, no — not much good, anyway, and certainly not in a way anyone has figured out how to measure.

    Undoubtedly, some specific stretching techniques are good for specific purposes … but quite different from the stretching goals that most people actually have in mind, if they have any clear goals at all. My concern is not that stretching itself is useless, but that people are stretching aimlessly and ineffectively, to the exclusion of evidence-based alternatives, such as a proper warm-up or mobilization.
    For most people, most of the time, stretching has a lousy effort-to-reward ratio.
     
    #72
  23. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    Irony, Man

    In a dazzling display of irony, the September, 2009, issue of Runner’s World both quotes me as an expert debunking conventional wisdom about stretching, and uncritically promotes a new myth for a new generation of runners: the hip-strengthening myth.


    There is basically no hope that the average reader will know that Ferber’s advice is really weak, just as there was no hope for the last thirty years that the average person would understand how weak stretching science has been. Most will simply believe the article. About a million Runner’s World readers are going to conclude that hip strengthening “probably” works!

    “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after.” Falsehood was a sprinter long before Swift first wrote that in 1710, and little has changed in the 300 years since. So it has always been with stretching: an idea promoted with much greater confidence than has ever been justified by the evidence, and it’s only several decades later that — very slowly — the truth is catching up.

    So … is stretching good for anything?

    Probably not for the reasons or in the manner most people are stretching, no — not much good, anyway, and certainly not in a way anyone has figured out how to measure.

    Undoubtedly, some specific stretching techniques are good for specific purposes … but quite different from the stretching goals that most people actually have in mind, if they have any clear goals at all. My concern is not that stretching itself is useless, but that people are stretching aimlessly and ineffectively, to the exclusion of evidence-based alternatives, such as a proper warm-up or mobilization.
    For most people, most of the time, stretching has a lousy effort-to-reward ratio.
    I don’t believe that stretching is any more generally useful for people than it is for cats — you do it when you get up in the morning for a few seconds and then you’re off to the sandbox. That feels good — it’s stimulating and enhances your body awareness, it scratches some simple physiological itch, and that’s fine and dandy. But for most people, most of the time? As a time-consuming therapeutic exercise ritual? Stretching simply has a lousy effort-to-reward ratio.

    In the next few sections, I will respond to some of the common objections and questions that readers often have.

    So if all that’s true, if nothing I ever thought I knew about stretching turns out to be true, then why is it that I feel like I have to stretch or I’m going to seize up like an old piece of leather? Why do I have this compulsion to stretch, and why does it feel so good, if it’s not actually doing anything?

    Because it is probably actually doing something! It’s just probably not doing what you thought it was doing. And we don’t really know for sure what it is doing. If we are intellectually honest, we simply have to admit that.

    People routinely report that stretching feels good, that it reduces muscle soreness, or that they feel a strong urge to stretch. And I’m one of them. I have a stretching habit because it feels good, and because it feels like I’m going to “seize up” if I don’t. In particular, I stretch my hamstrings regularly and strongly, and it feels as pleasantly essential to my well-being as slipping into a hot bath — but the exact nature of the benefits are completely unclear to me.

    It’s probably a complex stew of genuine but mysterious and subtle physiological benefits, plus placebo. I was raised on stretching. Despite my doubt about the conventional wisdom, I tend to emotionally “believe” in stretching just like everyone else — it’s deep in our culture, and, since stretching feels good, it’s easy for my mind to jump to the conclusion that it must be good. But of course that’s not really helpful at all — lots of things feel good without having any clear physiological benefits. Stretching might be like scratching: an undeniably strong impulse, but with almost no relevance to athletic performance or overall health. Or it might be like getting a massage for muscles that are sore with DOMS: undeniably pleasant, but with a proven lack of actual efficacy.

    I just don’t know. And based on the research to date, no one else does either.

    If feeling good was the only thing that stretching was good for, most people — especially the athletes — would drop it from their exercise routine immediately. Most of us have better things to do. However, if someone firmly declared, “I stretch just to feel good,” I would applaud and say, “Hallelujah! That is an excellent reason to stretch! And one of the few that I can defend!”

    And, then again, there may actually be real physiological benefits to stretching — just not the usual ones that get tossed around.

    “But I find that stretching helps muscle soreness …”

    I hear this one a lot, and I experience it myself as well. There is one plausible and partially understood mechanism by which stretching might actually reduce muscle pain and stiffness: by “releasing” myofascial trigger points, commonly known as muscle knots. I do take this idea seriously and explore it in (excruciating) detail in this article:

    SY Stretching for Trigger Points — Is muscle knot release a good reason to stretch?

    However, to boil that article down to a single brief paragraph: although stretching probably does help trigger points, I suspect it’s only one piece of a complex puzzle. There are simply too many problems with the theory, too many little niggling doubts, not the least of which is that it’s pretty clear that stretching routinely fails to treat serious trigger points, and can even aggravate them. It’s just too complicated and mysterious a relationship to say anything firm about it. Trigger point release is almost certainly a partial explanation for why stretching sometimes feels good, but it is just as certain that it isn’t the whole story.

    “But don’t people just need to be taught how to stretch properly?”
     
    #73
  24. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.

    Andrew S. Tanenbaum

    No, they don’t — because it’s impossible. There is just no way, so far, to confirm what a “proper” stretch is. Trying to teach “proper” stretching is like trying to teach “proper” finger painting. There are no accepted standards in stretching technique (not even close), no method that is clearly superior, no way to know what’s right, no definition of success and no accepted method of achieving it.

    This is another protest I frequently hear from people who are clinging to the stretching dogma. The choice of words ranges widely, but the pretentious sentiment is always the same: stretching is only valuable if you “know what you’re doing.” And so a number of experts stay in business by advocating a stretching method or rationale that seems to trump all the others. Unfortunately, none of them agree with each other.

    My own former colleagues in massage therapy are sometimes the worst perpetrators of this idea, that clients just need to be “educated” and their stretching will magically become much more valuable than it used to be. Valuable for what, I am not sure — as we discussed above, we’ve pretty much eliminated all the popular reasons. But even if we generously allow that there may be some other benefit to stretching, who are we to say how it should be achieved? Show me an authoritative source of information about stretching! Show me a “correct stretch”!

    Here is a vivid example of the problem. This is an excerpt from one of my text books, a weighty and authoritative tome, a bible of therapeutic exercise:


    Several authors have suggested that a period of 20 minutes or longer is necessary for a stretch to be effective and increase range of motion when a low-intensity prolonged mechanical stretch is used.

    three citations listed, Therapeutic Exercise, 3rd Ed., Kisner/Colby, p157

    Twenty minutes? I don’t know anyone who is stretching a muscle for twenty minutes! I don’t know a single therapist or trainer who is recommending it either! And yet “several authors” have found that it is “necessary”! It would seem to be a “correct” method of stretching, yet it is absent from professional wisdom on the subject … because, of course, it is contradicted in other text books, by other experts, not to mention the fact that it’s completely impractical. Imagine trying to stretch for injury prevention: 20 minutes for each of 20 important muscles!

    You can see the problem. Even if you had clear and defensible goals for stretching, it is effectively impossible to form an evidence-based opinion on what “stretching properly” looks like.

    The unstretchables: the many muscles that are biomechanically impossible to stretch

    Another significant practical difficulty with stretching that never gets discussed: there are several important muscles and muscle groups that are mechanically impossible to stretch, including ones (like the quadriceps) that people think they are stretching. Even if stretching actually had the benefits that people want to attribute to it — which it clearly does not — those benefits would still not actually be available in large sections of the body. See:

    The Unstretchables: Eleven major muscles you can’t stretch, no matter how hard you try

    “But isn’t yoga all about stretching? An Yoga has lots of benefits, doesn’t it?”

    Yes, it is, and yes, it does — but probably not the benefits that people normally attribute to stretching. Even flexibility is suspect.29 Same with qigong, and the martial arts are full of stretching techniques — some of them appropriated from the modern Western fitness tradition, and others inherited from traditional practices. I advocate this kind of stretching elsewhere in my writings. So what’s the difference?

    The difference is in intention. The intention of stretching in the context of good qigong, yoga or martial arts is to focus the mind, to stimulate vitality through a combination of mental and physical exercise. The intention is everything — without the intention, you might as well not bother with these activities.

    Most westerners stretch without the foggiest notion of this underlying complexity. Stretching is generally stimulating to body awareness, of course: but that awareness is unsophisticated and incidental, rarely involving any insight more complex than “ooh, that muscle sure is sore.” Without education about intent — without a rich philosophical context — the value of stretching in yoga is just as dubious as it is in any other situation.

    And stretching in yoga also involves risks. Too often people perceive yoga as a wholesome and harmless activity, when over-stretching injuries and muscle strains are actually common. As with dancing or martial arts, there are many ways to hurt yourself practicing yoga.


    The remainder of the article is all new, a major update added July 14, 2011. It addresses one of the oldest weaknesses of this article. This wasn’t just laziness on my part! I had to wait for the science: although the sensory theory of flexibility has been around for some time, it’s only become reasonably clear over the last few years that it truly is the “last theory standing” to explain flexibility.

    Back to the question of flexibility

    There is really only one “benefit” to stretching that seems to be clear and uncontroversial: it does increase flexibility. For whatever it’s worth, people do seem to be more flexible when they stretch regularly for a while. It’s not easy to achieve, but it can be done. The phenomenon is widely observed, and has been confirmed by experiments.

    The trouble is, what is it worth? Is it actually a benefit? I’ve already argued that is not, but to make the case more effectively, it’s important to study the nature of flexibility. When someoneone increases their flexibility, what changes, exactly? How does it work?

    Probably not the way you expect.

    The last theory standing

    A number of explanations have been proposed, and none have panned out. A 2010 paper in Physical Therapy reviews them all in great detail, and the full text is free.30 It’s not light reading, but there are some fascinating highlights. For instance, the authors torpedo the popular theory that muscles actually change length (“plastic deformation”):


    In 10 studies that suggested plastic, permanent, or lasting deformation of connective tissue as a factor for increased muscle extensibility, none of the cited evidence was found to support this classic model of plastic deformation.

    After reviewing several more disproven popular theories, they get to the good part: the last theory standing.


    Increases in muscle extensibility observed immediately after stretching and after short-term (3 to 8-week) stretching programs are due to an alteration of sensation only and not to an increase in muscle length. This theory is referred to as the sensory theory throughout this article because the change in subjects’ perception of sensation is the only current explanation for these results.

    Note the very interesting and sensible phrasing, “the only current explanation.” That’s a very Sherlock Holmesian way of putting it: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” It’s a strange, cool, and unexpected conclusion … but it’s also all we’ve got left, so we should probably take it seriously.





    Increased flexibility may simply be an increased tolerance for the discomfort of excessive muscle elongation.

    Let’s get neurological

    Muscle doesn’t change, but our willingness to elongate it does. Therefore, elongation must normally be limited by a strict neurological edict. The brain and spinal cord decree: you’re only going to lengthen your muscles so far, period, end of discussion. It’s not a negotiation … at least not in the short term. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you could just blast through that barrier with will power.

    There is a strong analogy to strength: we always have much greater muscle power available than we can safely use. We have deep reserves that are literally impossible to tap into on short notice, without large squirts of adrenalin. Contractions are normally reined in by the brain. Even with a powerful grunt of effort, only a small fraction of your muscle fibres get a signal to contract at any one time. If you recruited all of them, you might rip the muscle off your bones, or at least completely exhaust yourself in seconds. Your central nervous system has excellent reasons for imposing a power limit. Full contraction is for dramatic, obvious, life and death situations only.

    However, with training, we can learn to recruit more fibres. In fact, when people train their muscles, early strength gains may be mainly a matter of learning to “recruit” more muscle fibres at once.

    The wisdom of the body

    The evidence shows that there must be similar neurological limits on muscle elongation. As with contraction, your body probably has excellent reasons for strictly limiting elongation. When a stretch becomes uncomfortable, that’s your nervous system saying, “No way, sister, we don’t go there — we’ve got some sensible rules about this.”

    And you really just can’t overrule your spinal cord on this. Talk about wisdom of the body!
     
    #74
  25. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    But apparently we can get used to stretching — we can learn to tolerate greater elongation to some extent. Fascinating! This goes a long way to explaining the flexibility feats of yogis and martial artists, whose hypermobility might well be dangerously dysfunctional if it were attributable too plastic deformation. Plastic deformation simply does not occur in the most athletes, and maybe none. It might occur at the extremes of flexibility performance, but only so much — if you actually deformed your muscles and tendons enough to really preztel yourself, they would probably also be too loose to be useful the rest of the time.

    It’s a tidy, attractive theory that plastic deformation is minimal, and contortionism largely powered by extremes of stretch tolerance — they have trained themselves to allow their latent capacity for full muscular elongation, but their muscles retain the ability to return to a normal length.

    So stretching is good for … stretching?

    So that’s how increased flexibility works — a reasonably safe tentative conclusion. But it is not easy to achieve this — it takes weeks of diligent effort, quite a bit more than most people ever actually push themselves to achieve. Many people probably believe that they have achieved this, but it’s mostly wishful thinking, and the huge majority have only scratched the surface of their potential flexibility during brief phases of their lives.

    More to the point, what’s the point? We already know that stretching does not do all the basic stuff we used to hope it was doing, especially injury prevention. Is it good for anything else?

    There is no known benefit to greater flexibility, except for:
    •bragging rights
    •dominating Twister tournaments
    •making full use of Indian love manuals

    In short, stretching appears to be good for … more stretching. Oh, and:
    •yes, stretching does feel pleasant
     
    #75
  26. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    So Freddy, what are your thoughts on stretching?
     
    #76
  27. Sentinel

    Sentinel Bionic Poster

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    Aren't you guys stretching it a bit ? ;)

    ^ hehe nice quote from Tanenbaum, The OS Guy (I've read his books long back). Haven't read the rest of your post, but that caught my eye, wonder how you weaved that into your post :)
     
    #77
  28. Sumo

    Sumo Semi-Pro

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    How can you be this anti-stretching, but still sleep 10hrs a day?

    It's baffling.
     
    #78
  29. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    ??

    Explain what u mean? Iam not anti-stretch but it's clear it does nothing for muscle performance, Doms and preventing injuries. Also why do it if u might get hurt doing it instead spend your time resting or doing skill development, strength training or cardio? I would only stretch if I needed more flexibility for some sport where u need a high level of flexibilty.
     
    #79
  30. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    ha

    Yeah but they woke up form a dead sleep, they will get killed by the army is already warmed up.
     
    #80
  31. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    wtf

    Do u do an active warmup and stretch out your rotator cuff muscles before u play catch with your kid? Like I said there is no warmup in life!!
     
    #81
  32. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    yes, everyone does.....
    they climb out of bed, put on a shirt and maybe pants, shoes and socks...that is STRETCHING!!!!
    How would you feel when you're in your PJ's, still eating Sunday breakfast, and your son starts running helterskelter all around the house, knocking everything over? You'd FREAK, because you're not ready to chase after him.
     
    #82
  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    you seem to have a bunch of info here, but it did recommend warming up in one place,
    and once you have seen enough tennis players in lower back pain, but cured
    by stretching hamstrings, you will know different!
     
    #83
  34. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Thats why the special forces do dynamic stretches (range of motion warm up)
    first thing in the morning and will be ready all day.
     
    #84
  35. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    See, even asking the wrong question. It's not a before or after question, it is
    dynamic warm up before, with proper stretching after. Most of that seems to
    about joggers, lol so not sure how that tell much.
     
    #85
  36. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Actually, yes. We throw from about ten feet, back up a little and throw some more. Back up a little more, throw some more. After ten or fifteen minutes we will start doing grounders. Then we will hit fly balls.

    Goodness, baseball players warm up for longer than any sport I can think of.
     
    #86
  37. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    warmups

    Sorry but I never said I was anti-warming up or cooling down. Sometimes in life u need to perform without it.
     
    #87
  38. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    crap

    It does not matter dynamic before pnf before or after static, ballistic, ai before or after stretching does not work unless u want more flex then stretch after u workout. Unless u need to do mma and kick a dude in the head u don't need it at all just warmup and cooldown!
     
    #88
  39. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    bs

    Man was made to climb not throw baseballs it's unnatural and bad for your cuff and shoulder.
     
    #89
  40. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    ok

    Good for them just following orders.
     
    #90
  41. FastFreddy

    FastFreddy Semi-Pro

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    cycling

    True everytime u use a muscle u stretch so why waste 20 mins before and 20 mins after to stretch? Just do what Lance does HGH, TEST and EPO forget stretching, warmping up and cooling down!! Lance is a DOPE!!
     
    #91
  42. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    I think we got it.
     
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  43. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    :) Ever see the Tongan War Dances? Like before a rugby game? Or before starting battle?
    The Indians did it, the Irish and the Scot did it, the Persians and their enemies the Greeks did it.
    You stomp ground, pound the rear end of your weapon into the ground, you jump and pose, your roar and scream, THEN you're ready for battle.
    Heck, even civilized nations did it, like the Japanese and the Chinese ..:oops::oops:, all the Pacific Islanders, the Incas and the Mayans.
     
    #93
  44. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Tongan?

    Polynesian I think.
     
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  45. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Actually, the Samoan's do a completelely different routine prebattle.
    Tongan's taught the Aucklander's their pre match rugby dance routine.
    Tongan's from Tonga.
    Those mid Pacific Islanders are very close knits, and keep the culture intact foreever.
     
    #95
  46. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Some people seem to do fine without much some form of pre-activity warm-up or stretching of any kind but many would say this increases the likelihood for injury in a sport like tennis.

    For me personally, I can't play tennis without going through a warm-up routine which includes doing (at home before I even go to the courts) no weight squats/lunges, light upper body weights, giving my calves the rolling-pin treatment and some mild stretches especially stuff like torso twists and for shoulder joint mobility.

    It's nothing too hectic but when I get to the club 15 to 20 mins later and start hitting I really notice the difference. It makes for a much better start to the match as well and, anecdotally, seems to delay fatigue during the game to some extent as well.
     
    #96
  47. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Oh, to explain...
    Our high school football team had 2 Tongans, and 2 Samoans. On paper, you'd think they'd gell like bread to butter, all 4 lineman.
    But no, they kept to themselves, having more friends from other countries than to each other.
    I was sorta the "mascot" for both tribes. Being about 5'5" and 111 lbs., while the smallest Tongan was close to 6'1" and 300 lbs., they loved the fact I played OLB, strong side, and often pass rushed.
    They appeared to have different cultures and values, yet only 300 miles apart by beeline distance (some course adjustments needed to account for prevailing currents and trade winds)...making it closer to sailing around 500 miles to go from one island to the other.
     
    #97
  48. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Samoans are part of the broader group of Polynesia.

    The Polynesian nations have historically similar origins but, in the case of the Haka for example, are often completely distinct.

    Tongans also did not teach the "Aucklanders their pre match rugby dance"... Auckland does a Haka (I assume you're referring to the Blues, Auckland's Super 15 team) which is Maori and culturally distinct from anything Tongans do.

    Likewise no Tongan or other non-Maori is even supposed to lead a Haka unless there is no Maori-ancestry team-member present. So there's no way a Tongan would be teaching the Haka to a Kiwi. General protocol for all Hakas is the most senior player present with Maori-ancestry is the Haka leader by default - as Piri Weepu demonstrates when he leads the All Blacks' Haka.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
    #98
  49. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I'm the first to agree that stretching is far over rated related to what you hear,
    especially for sports like jogging.

    On the other hand, I know first hand how stretching the hamstrings helps with
    lower back problems and also how stretching the forearm makes a difference for
    tennis players.
     
    #99
  50. sixftlion

    sixftlion Rookie

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    Stretching and myofascial release ARE important... Muscles have the most optimal force production at certain, optimal length. If some of your muscles are too short or too long, then the forces produced are less than optimal and your performance suffers... In addition, muscle groups work in synergies, and if groups are tight and/or shortened, then the forces around the joints are not as they are supposed to for optimal movement and there's more stress on the joint, and sooner or later injuries.

    If your muscles are in great condition (no trigger points etc) and in optimal length, you don't need much stretching. But I bet that EVERY tennis player has some issues, because tennis is so one-sided. One side of the hip is overactive and too tight, other side may not fire and all... sooner or later, injury will happen somewhere along the kinetic chain.

    So here, to stretch and do myofascial release after your training is super important --- to get your tissue to where it is supposed to me.

    Even joggers can have muscular imbalances (front vs back) and they need to stretch.
     

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