Stretching is Bad, no wait Stretching is Good

If there is a myth in fitness that needs debunking, it’s the one about stretching and its place in your exercise repertoire. There are people who say stretching exercises are essential for anyone who is after a well-built body.

Then there are others who scream that stretching is bad and can lead to injuries. Who’s right then? Well, both are in fact. How come, you may ask?

And here’s how. If you overdo stretching or if you stretch before workout, it can do harm. So please disregard all advice where stretching is suggested as part of your warmup before workout. Static stretching is not warmup, it’s the exact opposite, so it should never be performed before the training session.

A few years ago a group of scientists from Brigham Young University and Louisiana State University, namely Joke Kokkonena, Arnold G. Nelsonb and Andrew Cornwell published a largely controversial scientific material slating the practice of stretching. Why I say controversial – it’s because fitness instructors hate this article. Nevertheless, the scientists found that acute stretching of muscles inhibits maximal strength performance. In other words, your muscle tissue is weakened by overstretching.

So when you hear people say stretching is bad for your fitness, they’re probably refering to stretching at the wrong time or going over the top. Remaining in a foothold for 10 minutes may damage your tendons, especially if your flexibility still needs some work.

Those who say stretching is good for flexibility are also right. If you do moderate stretching as a separate session and you’ve warmed up properly beforehand, there’s nothing wrong with that.

It is believed that stretching helps increase the blood flow. Also, if you do stretching as part of your cooldown after a workout session, again, it’s good. It conditions the muscle, helps you build flexibility and can reduce signs of tiredness. Although the latter is difficult to prove. In fact, the British Medial Journal recently published a study stating that muscle stretching exercises yielded statistically-insignificant reduction in fatigue and soreness.

They also looked at experiments performed over a longer period of time on military personnel who undergo rigorous training routines. They found that stretching exercises before the main routine (i.e. stretching as part of warmup) does absolutely nothing to reduce the risk of muscle injury.

So, to recap all the findings, there are the things to remember:

  • Never stretch before you’ve done proper warmup
  • Don’t stretch to a point where it becomes uncomfortable
  • Don’t overdo. Regardless of whether you do a separate stretching session or a cooldown, stretch in moderation
  • Consider moderate and limited stretching after your exercises.

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