Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More on stretching...for Bozos?

I obviously wouldn't go that far seeing as I keep posting videos of Kelly Starret, but I do think that the arguments for indiscriminate stretching are limited.  For some of us at some times to address particular issues i think there is an argument for stretching. 

Anyway, Zero Drop has posted this list of

10 Reasons Why Runners Should Not Stretch

  • Stretching is exercise for the muscles like sea water is hydration for the body. When you're desperate for relief, it feels so right but only makes things worse.
  • All athletes, especially runners, are so passionate about stretching. They defend it like their political association, religion, or family. I think many of them may have pictures of their kids in their wallets doing all types of cool stretches that they show their coworkers every day at the water cooler.
  • Runners will follow any trend they think will make them run faster. Whether it's a new supplement, pair of socks, pair or shoes, custom orthotics, or stretching. They're the first in line for the Kool-Aid.
  • Stretching is a conditioned behaviour, not one we are innately born with. I see my kids run, jump, climb, throw things, and carry objects of all sizes. They move well, and efficiently. I've never seen them stretch. Their developing nervous systems know better.
  • The day I see my dog holding a stretch is the day I'll start stretching too.
  • Flexibility is a reflection of overall health and fitness. Stretching does absolutely nothing for health or fitness. It's not exercise. It's not a warm-up or a cool-down. And it definitely doesn't substitute for restful sleep or a wholesome diet.
  • Yoga is not stretching. Stretching is not yoga. Enough of that claim.
  • Make sure you stretch if you want to weaken muscles, promote injuries, decrease performance, delay tissue healing, and have absolutely way too much free time.
  • Stretching reduces injuries and improves endurance performance just like certain shoes will make you run or jump faster. Neither claim is true.
  • I enjoy watching runners stretch. They must stretch because they think they will run faster. I bet they believe in Sasquatch too.

Sock Doc's full article STOP STRETCHING is definitely worth reading

Stretching may increase your flexibility, but you will most likely be weaker and the results are often short-lived. Saying that stretching reduces injuries or improves endurance performance, (the two main reasons given for stretching), is like saying certain shoes will make you run or jump faster. Many continue to make both these claims, yet neither has ever been proven, and many still buy the shoes and stretch with them on. Stretching is not exercise and not a warm-up before a run or any activity. Aerobic activity is the best warm-up as it increases flexibility in a safe way while improving oxygen utilization, lung capacity, and fat burning.
So balance your muscles and your entire body by balancing your life with proper exercise, diet, and other lifestyle factors. Stop drinking that Kool-Aid propaganda and just say “No!” to stretching!


    Martha said...

    What do you think about stretching because it feels good? I also think I get (only slightly) fewer DOMS when I get warmed up (like you said, with a few
    Ins aerobics) and a good stretch routine after heavy strength training.

    Chris said...

    If it feels good....maybe. Careful with doing it before exercise though

    John said...

    I have psoriatic arthritis and crohns, which flare up more days than not. It literally feels like 20 guys beat me up, especially around my rib cage and muscles. When I forget to stretch and go for a walk or swim, I always feel worse. However, when I do disciplined stretching after a short warmup, I actually feel better. From my experience, stretching is a godsend. Plus it's free and I don't need an instructor.

    And two decades ago, before I had the chronic issues, I played football. We had an excellent trainer who made sure to warm us up and cool us down, always including stretching. That certainly increased our flexibility, something I also noticed while throwing javelin for track and field. My range of motion increased and flexibility improved performance. Whenever I trained on my own and skipped stretching I pulled a muscles or pinched a nerve at least a quarter of the time.

    Chris said...


    Sorry to hear of your crohns. Have you looked at Robb wolfs approach to diet. He has had good rests on treating ibd with a paleo diet.

    As to stretching there is obviously some hyperbole in this article. But I would point to the research I've gas here before or the sock doc article.

    Dr. Gangemi said...

    Thanks for posting this Chris. Obviously the Top 10 list is meant to be fun, though some are really taking it way too seriously. However, the points about my kids not stretching and being naturally flexible w/o stretching I feel are very valid, and very important concepts to look into. I address these in the full "Stop Stretching!" post and I replied to John's comment there too. It's all about WHY you have to stretch - what makes it benefit you or not. The Bozo graphic and the Top 10 list are simply meant to stir up the crowd and get them thinking about what they're doing and why. After all - I could write the same thing about say ibuprofen and how bad that is (oh yeah, I already do that), but there are going to be plenty of people who say "it works great for me." That's not the point - it's why you take it that's the point. Same if you consume copious amts of fish oil every day to keep inflammation down - maybe you should look at the amount of vege oils or carbs in your diet. And of course the same for stretching - look at why you have to spend some time doing that every day just so you feel somewhat mobile. I've never seen a patient, not even one, who was not able to stretch significantly less or not at all, once they cleaned up their diet, exercised properly, and got their health problems resolved.

    Ben said...

    ok, so the kids are ultra flexible, but I'm not. How do I get to be like them then? Just keep building strength?

    Dr. Gangemi said...

    Ben, did you read "Stop Stretching"?

    Mark Reifkind said...

    thats why gymnasts, dancers, acrobats,sprinters and martial artist get such bad results from stretching. Couldnt disagree more.
    tissue quality counts a lot and proper stretching can really improve that. jmo

    Ben said...

    Dr. Gangemi, no, I'll check that out.

    Dr. Gangemi said...

    Mark, those "exceptions" are addressed in the article, (though I would not put a sprinter in that list). Address flexibility naturally via a healthy nervous system and less vigorous stretching is needed even for those groups. I have professional dancers who will stand behind that, one noted in the "testimonials" on the SockDoc site.

    Guy Incognito said...

    I read the article and I'm not 100% on board. I've had extremely tight hamstrings with a very poor range of motion. Over the last few months I had a daily routine of static, active/passive stretches and basically sets of waiter's bow (sldl, whatever) to get them back to a reasonable range of motion. When you have gross deficiencies like that, what are you supposed to do?

    fr said...

    My understanding of the theory behind stretching is "use it or lose it". Joints are typically weaker when placed into a position to stretch a muscle, and the body doesn't like to be put into weak positions if not necessary. So if the body is not put into these positions on a frequent basis, muscles will shorten so as to make the weakened position impossible. This is good for people who were hypermobile to start with, but bad for people with normal mobility.

    For example, many older people in the west cannot sit comfortably in the Burmese cross-legged pose (see here:, with or without a cushion under the rear. Nor can they squat (see here Excessive loss of flexibility is a serious problem among the elderly. Surely not all of this loss of flexibility is caused by eating junk food.

    The notion that yoga is not about stretching is only half true. Yoga is about putting the body through the full range of natural motion (plus building muscle strength and balance), and that is effectively stretching, though very gentle stretching. Same with Tai Chi (less emphasis on muscle strength than with yoga).

    Dr. Gangemi said...

    Revelo - I agree with you; loss of flexibility is a huge problem in the elderly, (among other groups), and of course it's not one factor. In the elderly I'd say excessive medications (the average today is 14), poor balance due to lack of exercise and improper footwear (footwear is big - elderly wear propioception altering "orthotic" shoes and never go barefoot), and yes, poor nutrition is also a factor. If, and once, these factors are taken care of then I'm all for some light mobility stretching - dynamic movements that also help strength and balance are ideal.

    And with yoga - yes, but most people who do yoga don't have a clue what they're doing, and do moves they aren't ready for, so they're overstretching and causing problems.

    Chris said...

    Dr Gangemi

    Thanks for taking part in the comments and sharing your thoughts with us here. It is great to have you writing here

    Anonymous said...

    Item 5 made me think about my cats.

    They definitely stretch. A lot.