Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Stretching is not a good warm up

Phil Maffetone has a good piece up on the dangers of stretching, and why it’s not the best way to warm up.

UPDATE  Stretching vs. Non-Stretching

Confusion arises when a study shows that ranges of motion or flexibility improve with stretching. This has been shown by some studies. However, increased range of motion at what cost? These studies don’t address this important question. One problem caused by stretching is that muscles become too loose—weaker—allowing the associated joint to move in a wider range of motion. This increased range of motion/flexibility puts more stress on the joint, which is no longer supported properly by the muscle, increasing the risk of injury.

Damaging a muscle through any means, including stretching, will obviously have an adverse affect on an athlete’s gait. The loss of smooth efficient movement puts stress on virtually all other structures—ligaments, tendons, joints and bones, in addition to many muscles. The body tries to compensate for this irregular movement, and in doing so uses up more energy, taking away from ones performance. A recent study by Jacob Wilson and colleagues from Florida State University showed how stretching can result in poor running economy, increasing energy consumption during an endurance event, and decreasing performance.


john said...

That bit by Maffeton is poorly supported and vague. So damaging a muscle is bad for gait--does that mean we shouldn't lift either? Stretching directly before explosive efforts is hurtful to performance, but stretching's long term effects are more unclear. A "loose" muscle of course has a wider range of motion--that's not bad in and of itself. Lack of mobility hinders performance in almost every explosive activity.

On a similar note, I read a study about ballet dancers where certain moves were of equal performance in amateur vs pro, but the pros had more static flexibility. One interpretation is that mobility is specific to training (as many things are), and that static stretching doesn't necessarily increase specific mobility for sports where it may be necessary (eg, hip extensors and flexors in sprinting).

Karli said...

I just came across your health and fitness blog. This is a very interesting article, I can definitely see how stretching would make the muscles weaker. Is it suggested to stretch after the workout?

I am adding you to my favorites. We’re in the same industry, the business of encouraging health and fitness. We market a product called The AbStand: We would love for you and your readers to check out our ab workout product. Any feedback would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

That was almost as fun to watch as the Shake Weight! Why can't I think up some cheesy and nearly useless workout tool to market on late night tv and get rich?

I'm missing the boat.


Anonymous said...


What do you think the role of mobility exercises are? It seems like stretching outside of specific circumstances is probably a waste of time (for someone seeking good health and performance).

Chris said...

I think there is a definite role for mobility work. Check out the interview I did on the site with mc.

Seth Hymes said...

The report is incomplete; the truth is that static stretching, the act of holding a stretch for 6 seconds or more, and lengthening the muscle, is in fact a bad thing to do before a workout. Studies have shown it weakens the muscles and in effect puts the CNS to sleep.

However, this does not mean stretching is bad. What you need to do is something called Dynamic Stretching. These are active stretches done by almost all pro athletes and division i college athletes. They are typically moving stretches that look kind of funny, but they activate the muscles while stretching them so it is a more fluid transition into a workout.