Studies Question the Effectiveness of Workout Stretching

Are you someone who stretches before and after your workout? What would you think if we told you that many experts are now questioning the effectiveness of this type of stretching? Keep reading to learn more!
Studies Question the Effectiveness of Workout Stretching

Last update: 09 March, 2020

When someone starts to exercise or play sports on a regular basis, whether as a child, a teen, or an adult, one of the first things they learn is the importance of stretching before and after a workout. However, there are some researchers who question the effectiveness of stretching to prevent injuries.

The scientific findings that we’ll share in this article aren’t meant to completely negate the idea that stretching is a beneficial part of an active lifestyle. Nor are we trying to defend this theory against other hypotheses.

Instead, the goal of the article is to shed some light on some research that you might not be very familiar with. These studies offer a different perspective on stretching exercises.

That being said, most trainers still believe in stretching before and after your workout, so ideas that go against the norm tend to be quite controversial.

The study that questions the effectiveness of stretching

The study that we’re referring to is from a group of scientists from the United States. They published their findings in March of 2004, in the 36th edition of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal.

The goal of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of stretching for preventing injury. They looked at stretching in the framework of sports training and exercise.

Methodology

These researchers dived deeply into the available literature about stretching. They also collaborated with other scientists who had performed similar studies in the past. Most of the studies they looked at compared how useful stretching was compared to other preventative measures.

A guy stretching his legs.

It’s important to note that the authors based their criteria on pre-established and standardized parameters. They used those to measure the quality of the information they read, as well as the different interpretations of the findings.

Conclusion

So, what did they find? First of all, they found that statistically, there was no direct relationship between stretching and a reduced rate of injury.

In the different subgroups that they studied, they also found similar rates of injuries. Considering the prevalence of stretching, the number of people with physical conditions should’ve been higher in subgroups of people who stretched less or not at all.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to support or discredit the effectiveness of stretching to prevent injury. That goes for competitive and recreational athletes.

Other studies looking at the effectiveness of stretching

The next year, scientist L. Hart, published another similar study in the same magazine. She also found that neither general nor specific exercises had a direct influence on the injury rate of the group of athletes in the study.

Studies from other specialists, such as the Chilean physical therapist Pablo Neira, question the supposed benefits of stretching. While it’s true that it feels good and tends to reduce tension, Neira argues that there are many widespread myths about stretching. Here are some of the common myths:

Effectiveness of stretching: it improves flexibility

The supposed benefit of enhancing flexibility through stretching isn’t always true. First of all, because stretching isn’t always the same as working on flexibility.

On the other hand, being flexible isn’t always essential in a physically fit person. In fact, for some sports such as running, it can actually be counterproductive.

Stretching helps warm up your muscles

According to Neira, the effectiveness of stretching to warm up your muscles is almost zero. On the contrary, it can actually be bad for you. Instead, the best way to warm up is by doing a slower, gentler version of the exercise you’re preparing to do.

A woman wondering about the effectiveness of stretching.

It alleviates muscle pain

Lastly, Neira also questions whether lengthening the muscle does anything for muscle pain. He argues that pain and muscle exhaustion will happen either way if the exercise is intense. In any case, stretching and receiving massages only provides temporary relief. They’re not solutions in and of themselves.

Given all of this, the alternative view of stretching is clear and quite different from what you usually hear. The issue is still open for debate, however, and researchers continue to analyze the benefits and downsides of stretching. Do you think that stretching is good for your physical well-being?

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