Contrary to popular belief, stretching before a workout
does not appear to decrease the occurrence of injury. The
risk of injury seems to be about equal to those who stretch and
those who do not stretch before exercise. The warm-up,
not stretching, seems to be the important deterrent for injury,
performed before an exercise bout. Stretching seems to offer
more long term benefit such as maintaining functional flexibility
and correcting particular muscular
(1999) review of the literature found three articles that suggested
stretching was beneficial included a co-intervention of warm-up.
One study found stretching was associated with less groin/buttock
problems in cyclists, but only in women. Five studies suggesting
no difference in injury rates between stretchers and non-stretchers
and three suggesting stretching was detrimental. One reason stretching
is thought to be ineffective in reducing the risk of injury is
the fact that most muscle injuries occur when the muscle is eccentrically
contracted within the normal range of motion (Shrier 1999). It
seems more flexible individuals do not necessarily have less
incidence of injury (Gleim 1997). In some cases, those with greater
flexibility may actually experience more injury, particularly
if the excessive flexibility compromises joint integrity (Surberg
1983; Jones 1997). Although excessive flexibility may contribute
to joint laxity, flexibility and joint integrity are not necessarily
mutually exclusive. It may be possible for a joint to possess
a combination of exceptional flexibility and excellent joint
Greater flexibility may impair performance in sports that
do not require a high degree of flexibility such as running.
Runners with less flexibility are actually more efficient at
running (Jones 2002). Intense static stretching may also reduce
maximum force production. The loss of voluntary strength and
muscular power may last up to one hour after the static stretch
(Evetovich 2003, Young 2003). People who participate in activities
that require more than average flexibility (eg: gymnasts, dancers,
figure skaters) may still find stretching beneficial to their
The ACSM recommends flexibility training a minimum 2 to 3
days per week holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds to mild
discomfort; 3 to 4 repetitions per stretch. On PNF stretches,
ACSM suggests a contract 6 seconds followed by a 10 to 30 second
McCallister et. al. (2004) found that longer recovery days
between stretching seemed to enhance stand and reach measurements:
Stand & Reach (cm)
This data suggests it may not be
necessary to stretch daily, but instead take a few days recovery
Weight training and stretching exercises have been considered
complimentary. Resistance training can increase the stiffness
of the tendon structures as well as strengthen the muscles, whereas
static stretching changes the viscosity of tendon structures,
but not its elasticity (Kubo et. al 2002).
Many full range weight training exercises could be considered
a kind of dynamic stretch under a load. These types of weight
training exercises can improve and maintain a degree of flexibility
depending on their movement, range of motion in which they are
performed, and existing levels of flexibility.
Although stretching does not seem to offer many short term
benefits when performed before exercise, stretching does seem
to offer other long term benefits. Improved flexibility may help
alleviate and help prevent back and other orthopedic problems.
Individuals with certain muscular imbalances or postural problems
can benefit from stretching. Stretching can help maintain flexibility
which may otherwise decline with age or inactivity due to an
injury. Stretching may be more safely performed after dynamic
exercise, when muscles are warm. Unless an activity requires
extreme flexibility, stretching before is probably unnecessary.
And even then, stretches should be performed after a warmup.
American College of Sports Medicine, (2000) ACSM's Guidelines
for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 6; 158.
Bracko, MR (2002). Can stretching prior to exercise and sports
improve performance and prevent injury? ACSM's Health & Fitness
Journal, 6(5), 17-22.
Evetovich TK, Nauman NJ, Conley DS, Todd JB (2003). Effect
of static stretching of the biceps brachii on torque, electromyography,
and mechanomyography during concentric isokinetic muscle actions.
J Strength Cond Res. 17(3):484-8.
Gleim, GW & McHugh, MP (1997). Flexibility and its effects
on sports injury and performance. Sports Medicine, 24(5), 289-99.
Hedrick A (2000). Dynamic flexibility training. Strength and
Conditioning Journal 22, 33-38.
Herbert, RD & Gabriel, M (2002). Effects of stretching
before and after exercising on muscle soreness an risk of injury:
Systematic review. British Medical Journal, 325 (7362), 468-470.
Jones AM (2002). Running economy is negatively related to
sit-and-reach test performance in international-standard distance
runners. Int J Sports Med. 23(1):40-3.
Jones BH (1997). The role of medical surveillance and research
in army injury prevention. American College of Sports Medicine
Conference abstract, Denver.
Kubo K , Kanehisa H, and Fukunaga T (2002). Effects of resistance
and stretching training programmes o the viscoelastic properties
of human tendon structures in vivo. Journal of Physiology 538:
McCallister TL, et. al. (2004). Days of rest between stretching
bouts increased hamstring flexibility. Journal of Athletic Training.
Supplement 39(2), 99-100.
Ninos J (2001). PNF-Self Stretching Techniques, Strength and
Conditioning Journal 23(4); 28-29.
Shellock, FG & Prentice, WE,(1985). Warming-Up and Stretching
for Improved Physical Performance and Prevention of Sports-Related
Injuries, Sports Medicine, 2: 267-278.
Shrier I (1999). Stretching before exercise does not reduce
the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical
and basic science literature. Clin J Sport Med. 9(4): 221-7.
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Young WB, Behm DG (2003) Effects of running, static stretching
and practice jumps on explosive force production and jumping
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