Why we shouldn't stretch before exercise... (Yes you read that right!)

09 May 2013

Why we shouldn't stretch before exercise... (Yes you read that right!)
  • Why we shouldn't stretch before exercise... (Yes you read that right!)
  • Philip Godfrey
  • Osteopath at Chase Lodge Hospital, London NW7
  • In our practice we see lots of frustrated patients who present to us with various injuries such as torn or badly sprained muscles, tendons and ligaments, and all too often they voice their frustration: "I don't understand why I got injured, I spent ages stretching before the game!!"
  • There is more and more evidence to suggest that people should not stretch prior to exercise... In fact many trainers and health professionals have been aware of this for some time. There are now a growing number of studies to show that stretching prior to exercise does not reduce the chance of injury and is in fact counterproductive. So why are so many people still stretching prior to a gym workout or at the side of a five a side pitch? I believe part of  the answer to that is that most people think they are 'warming up' when in fact a warm up should not consist of lots of static stretches. A warm up is designed to start getting good circulation through the areas we are going to work.. We can do this with light movement, cycling, jumping jacks or jogging on the spot etc., not standing still trying to make the muscles more elastic! 
  • Recent research has looked at people who weight train and found that stretching before lifting weights actually decreases our strength  One of the studies from researchers at the University of Zagreb reviewed 104 studies of people who only practiced static stretching as their warm-up and found that stretching reduced muscle strength by 5.5%. The second study looked at fit men who completed basic squats while lifting barbells either with or without stretching beforehand. Those that stretched lifted 8.3% less weight than those who didn't. In fact, if we stop to actually think about it, it doesn't make sense that just before demanding power from a muscle we stretch it and make it all limp. 
  • Now I should point out that stretching is extremely useful and almost vital to maintain general flexibility and range of motion and to aid balance and co-ordination, however prolonged stretching should be performed in isolation (not prior to other exercise) and AFTER other forms of exercise. Ironically we now know that stretching prior to exercise does not reduce chance of injury but at least one study has found that if we spend time stretching AFTER exercise we significantly reduce our chance of injury the NEXT TIME we exercise!
  • In summary, please do not forget, stretching is GOOD.. vital in fact, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to aid every day function and mobility. Static stretching prior to exercise is NOT a 'warm up', can reduce our strength and according to some recent research can actually INCREASE our chance of injury. It is generally accepted that we should always perform warm up exercises prior to any sporting activity and spend time stretching AFTER the cool down period.

Tags: Stretching before exercise, Chase lodge hospital, Backinhealth osteopaths

Back to Back Chat