Why is this still an issue in the fitness industry? Stretching what? muscle, connective tissue? I still wonder how many FT’s know why a muscle has tension and what happens to a muscle and its connective tissue when you “stretch” it? Did your certification include a study on Neurology? Love to hear your opinion?
I’ve never heard of the word “microscopicly” before! Stretching doesn’t affect the muscle or connective tissues as much as it affects the soft issues of the endo and perimycium of the skeletal muscle.
It does appear that the most effective time to stretch is after a workout, as the environment of the muscle tissue is at an elevated temp. Since some of the connective tissue is plastic in nature, it make it more amenable to effective stretch.
The better question would be to ask not if you should or shouldn’t, but what type of stretching to do and when. Always warm up before stretching or at the least gradually increase your stretches as your muscles warm up to the activity. Before exercise, more movement based stretching is beneficial such as ballistic stretching, because you also want to wake up the nervous system and prepare the body for activity. It has now repeatedly been shown that static stretching before an activity will actually decrease performance.
Post workout would be the time to use static stretching as this helps to relax the muscle and calm the nervous system.
Granted there are a lot of other systems out there and i only mentioned 2 of the more widely/popular forms of stretching, but the important part is to improve the body for activity and/or stay flexible after activity. There are more and more research papers out there touting benefits to stretch and guideline, you just have to be patient and search NSCA journals and maybe PUBMED.org.
We still discuss it all the time because of the evolving research! It doesn’t look like this topic will go away anytime soon. As Karin mentioned, they are in the baby years of researching the fascia which seems to be playing a big role. I find the best way to keep up with this knowledge is to follow research articles as they are published.