Why stretching before exercise is NOT a good idea


#1

If you are like me, you grew up hearing that stretching before exercise is good because it helps prevent injuries. And you may also have seen lots of people stretching before a run, a bike ride or another exercise.

Turns out static stretching (the ones you hold a position for a length of time to increase flexibility) before a workout is not recommended unless you are a ballerina or a gymnast. Of course, there could be very specific medical recommendations to do a certain type of stretch before exercise for very specific conditions. If this is your case, by all means ask your doctor about the research I share below before changing your routine.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Stretching is detrimental to performance
  • It does not reduce the risk of injury during exercise. Most injuries are believed to occur during eccentric contractions, which can cause damage within the normal range of motion., If injuries usually occur within the normal range of motion, why would an increased range of motion prevent injuries?
  • It does not prevent soreness
  • Stretching increases tolerance to pain- that might sound good, but in reality, this can create some damage at the cytoskeletal level, and then make us exercise this damaged “anaesthetised” muscle.

Here are a few sources for those interested in more details.

Would love to hear your experience with this.

Feel free to share the link to this post with any of your friends who love to stretch before exercising!


#2

Thanks for this evidence-based synopsis, Theia. It warms my heart to see the link for the meta-analysis research study! Recalling the days of aerobics classes (remember Jane Fonda and those leg warmers?), I was always suspicious of, and never enjoyed, the pre-aerobics stretching segments.


#3

Oh yes, I remember those days. I used to wear the leg warmers and the crazy 80s gym outfits :see_no_evil: I am not a scientist, but my background in law certainly helps me identify reliable, evidence-based resources. So as someone who loves to study, I spend a considerable amount of time digging into the areas of exercise physiology and nutrition. It’s staggering how much misinformation is out there, even among the professionals in these areas. It’s fascinating, actually, because even studies can have flaws/limitations, evidence can be distorted by the media, and the peer review process is not 100% reliable.


#4

Well stated. With regard to published research studies, you are absolutely correct about study methodology/design & analysis limitations and the peer review process. In the field of clinical epidemiology, we are taught critical appraisal of medical literature skills which help distinguish useful from not-so-useful studies. There are lots of resources in this area, but my favourites are the Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature, a series of papers published in JAMA.


#5

YES! I was always taught to stretch before running, soccer and yes Jane Fonda workouts (I still have the VHS tapes :flushed:). Excellent read!


#6

Oh Jane Fonda! I wonder if she knows how many people she affected?

I was taught to stretch first too but I always hated it because it really hurt and I would force the stretch now and then and cause some strain issues. So I stopped doing it whenever I could and if someone asked why I wasn’t stretching I’d say, oh I did it before I got here :laughing: Never had an injury from not stretching beforehand so I am glad I have science on my side now!


#7

I think we’ve all fallen foul to the pre exercise stretch; during my rugby playing days we would do quite an intense pre game stretching routine but as soon as the final whistle was blown there was no talk of warm downs, just hit the showers and then the bar :woman_facepalming:t3: