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Do You Really Need to Stretch? Sports Recovery Series #4

need to stretch

 

Should you stretch to improve performance and reduce injury risks?

Do you really need to stretch?

There was a large review study done on the effects of stretching in distance runners that summarizes a lot of the evidence (1). Here are some of the highlights:

Does stretching improve flexibility?

Chronic stretching, meaning a stretching program over 6 weeks or more does improve flexibility. This is not the same as acute stretching which is done just once before or after training or an event.

Does acute stretching improve performance?

Just stretching before an event does not improve performance and, for running, it can decrease performance.

Does flexibility improve performance?

Improved flexibility can actually be detrimental to performance as the most elite runners are less flexible. Also, cycling is a sport were increased flexibility can be a negative. However, for other sports flexibility is more important such as for gymnastics, skating, wrestling, cheerleading, martial arts, etc. So whether flexibility is desired for performance depends on the sport.

Does stretching reduce post-exercise soreness?

Either static stretching (hold a stretch for a certain time) or dynamic stretching (moving through a range of motion) before exercise in studies has shown to have no or very tiny benefit at most for reducing soreness.

Does stretching reduce the risk of chronic injury?

For the most part, there has not been much evidence that stretching reduces the risks of injury. However, for some activities or sports, stretching could potentially be beneficial for injury prevention. Stretching does not seem to increase the risk for injury. Also, if you are injured, stretching is beneficial for maintaining joint range of motion which is important for overall joint health.

My recommendation:

If you are a runner or a cyclist then you likely do not need to stretch much. If you do have an injury then stretching is important. Also, if stretching feel good for you personally then go ahead and do so after your workout or event. For other sports, especially those that require good flexibility then improving flexibility is a good idea. Some are genetically more flexible and may not have to do much. For others, doing some dynamic stretching before activity, and static stretching when warmed up as part of a flexibility program can be helpful. Just stretching before an event is probably not helpful and for runners and cyclists maybe a bad idea.

Of course if you have any nagging injuries keeping you from working out or performing at your peak, then contact us at the Centeno Schultz clinic for evaluation, as we specialize in treating musculoskeletal and orthopedic problems with an emphasis on helping your body heal without drugs and surgeries.

References

1. Claire Baxter, Lars R. Mc Naughton, Andy Sparks, Lynda Norton & David Bentley (2017) Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners, Research in Sports Medicine, 25:1, 78-90, DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2016.1258640