Is Stretching Before Exercise a Good Idea?

The conventional wisdom says it is. But research on the subject is considerably more murky. (Hat tip: Ben Elder Jr.)


kramsauer

According to that guy that runs 10 marathons back to back to back to back, "Jack LaLanne has a great quote: "Ever seen a lion warm up?" I don't stretch. I've tried it, but I just don't see the benefit."
http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/Esquire/2005/03/01/720628?ba=a&bi=1&bp=24

Personally, I stretch stuff that is usually sore after I run. Other than that, as soon as my GPS unit is good to go, so am I!

PSD

I remember doing a school project on this and basically what I found is little-to-no proof that stretching prevents injuries. Moreover, 'warming-up' (jog etc, at a high enough intensity to just start breaking a sweat) was far more beneficial than simple stretches, particularly for peak performance.

again though, this was highly unscientific and doesn't explain why all the coaches I ever hadalways insisted that we stretch

wolverineb

I am also a runner, and I was actually surprised when I began that most runner's sites and magazines do point out that you should not stretch until you are either warmed up or finished with your work out. Goes against everything we're told in gym class, but at least they're getting the word out.

The new emphasis is on a thorough warm-up as opposed to stretching.

I've also seen references to studies that showed more flexible runners actually were more prone to injury, likely because of a lower level of structural stability.

Ditto on the GPS unit comment, by the way.

StCheryl

The analogy I was given is that it's like putting a rubber band in the freezer and then trying to stretch it -- it snaps and breaks. Thus, warm up first with moderate cardio exercise and then stretch.

mehylen

The problem is basically that without stretching your stride becomes shorter instead of long. Stretching should be done alongside of core strengthening.

MVPY

“Ever seen a lion warm up?” I don't stretch. I've tried it, but I just don't see the benefit.”

http://www.eveandersson.com/photos/south-africa/timbavati-lions-142-large.jpg

http://www.netsnake.com/sigrid/gallery/photos/lion.jpg

LogicGuru

It's bull. I hate exercising. I hate every minute I spend at the health club. I just want to burn calories as fast as posssible and get the hell out of ther as fast as possible. I've never had an injury--I do my thing and get out. If I ache I don't care--it hurts, it stinks and I want to minimize the time I spend messing with exercise.

zbicyclist

LogicGuru said "I hate exercising. I hate every minute I spend at the health club. I just want to burn calories as fast as posssible". If that's true, how do you stay with it?
I've kept up regular aerobic exercise (30 min+, 5+ times a week) for over 10 years now, and it I didn't find activities that are fun in themselves I'd never stay with it.
I'm surprised you find enough incentive to continue with an exercise program.

POSTER BOY

Stretching IS exercise.

BB

oldbobsledguy

Take my word for it, you do not not want to sprint without stretching and being properly warmed up beforehand...

stretchsport guy

Even for lay people unless you are flexible enough to perform normal activities then you may be injured trying to do them. However, if the lay person stretches out before attempting an activity which requires difficult extension, then he may perform it without injury due to the temporary increase in flexibility from the stretch warm-up. For an athlete normal activities may mean extreme conditions that a lay person is not likely to encounter. If you are a gymnast then unless you warm-up your flexibility, you risk injury attempting stunts. Stretching out is an essential part of a gymnast's warm-up. Concerning runners, if you are a distance runner then you may get away with not stretching in your warm-up routine. But a hurdler because of the split in the air to step over a hurdle is not going to risk pulling a tendon away from the bone by not stretching. Whether this means ballistic, static, passive, or any other stretching technique depends on their training. But hurdlers warm-up their flexibility. Can an athlete get away with not stretching during their warm-up? Its a matter of degree. A well trained gymnast may get away with it once or twice. But if he continues to not stretch during warm-ups then he risks losing some of the flexibility gained from training and is setting himself up for an injury. In the long run it pays to gain the flexibility you need for the level of activity you require and maintain that flexibility with ongoing stretch training. If you don't require much flexibility for what you do then you may forgo stretching in your warm-up routine and get away with it. Keep in mind as you age and your tendons, muscles, and joints lose their resilience, you eventually may lose the ability to perform normal activities. In which case a stretch program could have maintained your reach. Imagine a scenario where you let yourself go until later in life you find yourself in need to warm up with some stretches just to get your meds out of the kitchen cabinet. Don't let that happen. Stretch for maintenance.

Read more...

Stretchsportsguy

Implying that stretching before exercise is not a good idea at best is misleading if not one sided. The research article referred to above by Stephen J. Dubner in fact concludes the following..."pre-stretch exercise may be especially beneficial for some - but not all - muscle groups. Whichever method you choose to follow, working the right stretching exercises into your routine to maintain supple and flexible muscles is absolutely imperative." ...This article goes even further and explains how the test subjects who stretched before exercising improved their back flexibility while the test group who did not stretch before exercising did not improve but actually got tighter. What is most important about stretching before you exercise is the type of activity you intend to perform after your warm-up. If the selected activity may challenge your flexibility then proper stretch exercises beforehand are imperative to assure your muscles are elastic enough to sustain those movements without injury. For example, the weekend warrior who plays softball may never need to split his legs during the weekdays. However, on weekends the warrior may need to leap over a hit ball or stretch one leg out to tag a base. If the legs are not ready for the extension required then injury is imminent. Warming up without stretching may mean you are not ready for the forthcoming positions your body will be called upon to accomplish. As the study Stephen J. Dubner alludes to implies, those who stretched first increased their back flexibility and thereby acquired less probability of back sprains from their athletic activities.

Read more...

MG

Lions don't go to a doctor after they injure themselves either

Stretching elongates muscle to the point where microtears occur within it. That tight pulling feeling as you stretch indicates it. As it has been said a warm-up routine should be done at before any moderate degree of exercise at least. Some studies say that stretching shouldn't be performed until after exercise. If the muscle already has microtears from stretching, that may weaken the muscle's performance during exercise. When's there's any kind of injury, minute or significant, the body tries to heal it right away. Other studies refute that and say stretching before any exercise but after a warm-up to increase your flexibility for exercise. So it's uncertain really. Just make sure you do a whole body warm-up in before any exercise or work out.

kramsauer

According to that guy that runs 10 marathons back to back to back to back, "Jack LaLanne has a great quote: "Ever seen a lion warm up?" I don't stretch. I've tried it, but I just don't see the benefit."
http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/Esquire/2005/03/01/720628?ba=a&bi=1&bp=24

Personally, I stretch stuff that is usually sore after I run. Other than that, as soon as my GPS unit is good to go, so am I!

PSD

I remember doing a school project on this and basically what I found is little-to-no proof that stretching prevents injuries. Moreover, 'warming-up' (jog etc, at a high enough intensity to just start breaking a sweat) was far more beneficial than simple stretches, particularly for peak performance.

again though, this was highly unscientific and doesn't explain why all the coaches I ever hadalways insisted that we stretch

wolverineb

I am also a runner, and I was actually surprised when I began that most runner's sites and magazines do point out that you should not stretch until you are either warmed up or finished with your work out. Goes against everything we're told in gym class, but at least they're getting the word out.

The new emphasis is on a thorough warm-up as opposed to stretching.

I've also seen references to studies that showed more flexible runners actually were more prone to injury, likely because of a lower level of structural stability.

Ditto on the GPS unit comment, by the way.

StCheryl

The analogy I was given is that it's like putting a rubber band in the freezer and then trying to stretch it -- it snaps and breaks. Thus, warm up first with moderate cardio exercise and then stretch.

mehylen

The problem is basically that without stretching your stride becomes shorter instead of long. Stretching should be done alongside of core strengthening.

MVPY

"Ever seen a lion warm up?" I don't stretch. I've tried it, but I just don't see the benefit."

http://www.eveandersson.com/photos/south-africa/timbavati-lions-142-large.jpg

http://www.netsnake.com/sigrid/gallery/photos/lion.jpg

LogicGuru

It's bull. I hate exercising. I hate every minute I spend at the health club. I just want to burn calories as fast as posssible and get the hell out of ther as fast as possible. I've never had an injury--I do my thing and get out. If I ache I don't care--it hurts, it stinks and I want to minimize the time I spend messing with exercise.