Have you tried searching “research on the benefits of stretching” or something similar. Recently stretching has gotten a bit of a bad rap. There have been a few studies that didn’t find a clear benefit. And as usual, the world of 10 second sound bites latched on to a line or two that was only a portion of the study. Much of this has then been given more attention because, like exercise itself, many people do not enjoy stretching. The number one complaint about stretching is that it is uncomfortable. This is due in most part to improper technique. Stretching that is taken to the point of actual pain is not correct or beneficial. And most stretching research has focused on stretching for improved ROM (range of motion), which is only one reason to stretch. From the hours I have spent reading research findings, it is clear to me that pre-activity/athletic competition stretchng should focus on being able to achieve the ROM that is necessary for the activity. In other words, before you do something physical, you should stretch enough to easily be able to move through the ROM that will be necessary to do the activity. Imagine a gymnast (possibly the type of athlete that most definitely needs great ROM) being able to jump and tumble without amazing ROM. There is also a bit of misunderstanding on the part of those who are advocates of a “dynamic warm up”. If you take the time to observe a dynamic warm up, it is essentially stretching done while moving through various progressive ROM exercises. The only real difference from a dynamic warm up and traditional stretching is that traditional stretching is done while holding a static position. The second most common complaint on stretching is that people feel their time could be better used by doing more exercise. I have never found any research done on whether it would be more beneficial to spend more time exercising than by finishing with stretching. Post exercise/activity stretching is where the more traditional style of stretching has been shown to improve ROM and possibly reduce soreness and injury. But again this type of stretching needs to be done properly. When stretching there should never (NEVER EVER EVER) be pain. But many people stretch beyond the mild discomfort and then reach the conclusion that stretching hurts.
Anecdotally, my own observations have found that stretching is absolutely positive in outcome. I have coached hundreds of athletes and been present at hundreds of athletic competitions. When ever I have had the opportunity to ask an athlete who sustained an non contact injury about their pre competition routine, the single most common factor reported was feeling “tight” during their warm up and not addressing the issue with stretching prior to competing. Personally, I have pulled athletes out of competitions if their ROM was inhibited prior to their event. And I believe this has greatly reduced the incidents of muscle strain type injuries in athletes I coach. But I also use all other pre and post activity methods available to me to reduce the possiblity and occurance of injury. Like using cryo/ice therapies, massage/myofascial manipulation, proper cool down (gradual activity reduction post activity), repeat bouts of warm up activities when breaks between activity/competion occur, etc.
And one final thought. Although I have read several studies that didn’t find a clear connection between stretcing and improved performance/injury reduction. I have never found a study that advocated not stretching. As with any research topic, the quality of the study should be the first thing you consider. The more time, number of participants, amount of control over variables, etc. appllied in the study of a topic; the better the reliability of the findings. And research findings that have been found repeatedly by repeat studies are even more reliable. And this presents a problem for the average instructor or exercise participant. If finding time to exercise and stretch is difficult. How much time will there be to really look into research on these subjects? That is why so many people follow the “sound bite” system to come to conclusions about what is good and bad when it comes to exercise. Personally, I love to learn about anything, but especially love to learn about exercise science. I consider my time to be very precious and hate to waste time on things I don’t find productive or beneficial. I stretch almost everyday and have for the last 45 plus years. I am coming up on 60 and the only thing I avoid physically is jumping as high as I can. (It isn’t the jumping, it is the landing. Years of too much fun. Another story all together.) Sure, it would be great if I could skip some of the things that I don’t enjoy as much to focus on things that I do enjoy more. But that isn’t how life works. This where I could drop the mic, but I don’t treat my electronics so poorly.
Hello Joe Widlicka,
Yes, there are studies about the benefits of stretching:
My professional experience proves that proper stretching should be done daily for best results which I personally follow and recommend to all clients of all ages and fitness abilities. A flexible muscle is a strong muscle which is pain free or at least less painful.
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
Research? Plenty. You’d have to google to find and look as recommended by Natialie above in the archives here. The big question being debated is what kind is best and how long it lasts (newest studies show 1 hour). There is plenty of research showing dynamic ROM drills/exercises are the ONLY type of stretching that MAY help prevent injury. Also that static stretching is best done after a workout or athletics, when muscles are warm. Plenty of research supporting fascia release and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF stretching).
That said: if working with a “hyperflexible” client, I’d forgo most stretching except for what is needed for that person’s thoracic spine and hips.
A lot of studies just google it. Unfortunately, I cannot post all the links here. Here’s one: