Don’t Stretch Before Your Workout!! Here is the Reason Why…
By: Robbie Durand
If you read any fitness or health magazine, they will routinely recommend that a person do static stretching for 10-15 minutes before working out. Most of us grew up hearing from your coach that before exercise, you should warm up with a stretch. If you have ever watched Animal Planet, you never see a cheetah stretching before it does a full throttle sprint. Did mother nature intend for us to stretch before dynamic exercise? Traditional poses such as touching your toes, for 30 seconds or more, we were told, and you’ll be looser, stronger and injury-proof. The rationale is that stretching can reduce the risk of injury by getting the muscle prepared for exercise. Despite the widely practiced ritual of pre-exercise stretching, there is little evidence to supporting its use. Several reviews of the scientific literature have found no evidence that stretching can reduce muscle injuries.
Researchers wanted to examine the impact of stretching and its effect on muscle performance. There has been some debate that short periods of stretching are not harmful as opposed to stretching for a minute or two. Researchers had ten recreationally active males were recruited for the study which involved stretching the calf muscles. On 5 separate occasions, subject’s performed one of 5 stretching protocols:
-1 stretch x 30 sec,
-2 stretches x 30sec,
-3 stretches x 30sec,
-4 stretches x 30 sec and
-10 stretches x 30 sec.
In each instance, the muscle was stretched to its maximum tolerated discomfort. The researchers found that a single 30-second stretch was enough to compromise muscle contractile ability for up to 5 minutes. Doing more stretching sessions did not further affect or deteriorate the muscle properties of the muscle. Just why stretching hampers performance is not fully understood, although some researchers equate stretching your muscles equivalent to stretching a rubber band. If you stretch a rubber band too far, it loses its elastic ability to snap back and reduces the force that can be exerted on the muscle. Stretching loosens muscles and their accompanying tendons, therefore making them less able to store energy and spring into action.
A better choice is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be called upon in your workout. For example, squatting with the bar a few times or doing the bench press with no weights before loading up the bar.
Key Points: Don’t stretch before resistance exercise, if you want to stretch, do it after exercise. Stretching before exercise can reduce muscle performance.
Opplert, J, Genty, JB, Babault, N. Do stretch durations affect muscle mechanical and neurophysiological properties. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016. 37(09): 673- 679.
Serra AJ, Silva JA Jr, Marcolongo AA, Manchini MT, Oliveira JV, Santos LF, Rica RL, Bocalini DS. Experience in resistance training does not prevent reduction in muscle strength evoked by passive static stretching. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Aug;27(8):2304-8.
McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.