Top 5 Static stretching fables

 StaticStatic stretching fables stretching is the most performed form of stretching. For most people it is the only form of stretching they know and its simply synonymous with stretching. Static stretching is performed by all sorts of athletes, from those just starting to run after years of inactivity to the most elite athletes in almost all sports. It is often recommended by (personal) trainers and coaches for several reasons, all of which have been disproven by scientific research. Or in other words are plain nonsense. This article will tell you which supposed effects are static stretching fables.

Fable 1: Static stretching increases muscle length

This is the primary and most logical reason most people perform static stretching. To increase range of motion. And static stretching is indeed effective in increasing the range of motion of a muscle. However these effects can be short lived (30 minutes) when not done regularly. After several weeks of static stretching range of motion can be increased for longer periods. The increase in range of motion is not caused by longer muscles or tendons however, but due to adaptations in the nervous system. These adaptations lead to you feeling less pain when stretching and allow the muscle to reach a greater length than before. The total length of a muscle and it’s tendons is not altered and only changes when the muscle is completely immobilized.

Conclusion: Static stretching helps improve range of motion because a muscle lets itself stretch to longer lengths but not because the muscle itself grows longer.

Fable 2: Static stretching improves performance

If even elite athletes perform static stretching before starting their Static stretching to improve performanceworkout or match it should be good right? Studies how otherwise however. Static stretching reduces maximum strength in the stretched muscles. Sprinters that performed static ankle stretches before a sprint took significantly longer to perform that sprint than when they performed a general warm up. In a rare long term study to the effects of static stretching on strength development scientists concluded that static stretching performed before or during training inhibits strength increases. Since strength is an essential component in many sports activities static stretching decreases performance. Static stretching decreases running performance in running events and lastly, static stretching decreases the ability to maintain balance and stability in for example the ankle joint.

Conclusion: Static stretching performed before or during exercise does not improve performance but in fact decreases it and inhibits strength training progression. Only when range of motion is too heavily impaired to perform movements does it aid performance, but one ask yourself if this is wise when range of motion is impaired.

Fable 3: Static stretching helps prevent injuries

Injury prevention is also one of the main reasons to performStatic stretching injury prevention static stretching.While it is true that a limited range of motion may increase the risk of injury during sports. This does not necessarily mean that stretching before an athletic activity is a good idea. Much research has been done on the effects of static stretching before exercise and no significant effect on the injury rate was found. It can even be argued that since static stretching reduces explosive strength, joint stability and increases range of motion to an extent the brain is not familiar with (and hence can’t control movements as well as in your ‘original’ state), injury risk can even increase when exercising after performing static stretching.

Conclusion: Static stretching performed before exercise does not decrease risk of injury and might even increase it.

Fable 4: Static stretching can be used as an effective warm up

Static stretching impairs performance in endurance activities, strength development and power (sprinting) activities and in addition is not effective in reducing injury risk. From this you can already gather that it is not useful to perform it before activities in which you train strength, power, endurance and/or balance. Furthermore, since static stretching is passive and no active muscle contractions are made, blood flow to these muscles does not increase and therefore static stretching does nothing to warm up the muscles.

Conclusion: Static stretching as a warm up should generally be avoided. It does not warm up the muscles and decreases performance.

Fable 5: Static stretching helps prevent muscle soreness

Many athletes perform static stretching after a workout to prevent muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is quite a difficult phenomenon to study, however research does not indicate that static stretching decreases muscle soreness. A good warming up that actually warms up the muscles and gradually increasing exercise intensity when starting with a new exercise is far more effective to prevent or reduce the amount of muscle soreness.

Conclusion: Static stretching performed before during or after exercise does not help prevent or decrease muscle soreness.

What is static stretching good for?

Is it all bad to perform static stretching on a regular basis? No, as said before it can help achieve the range of motion that is necessary to perform everyday or sports activities. However don’t perform static stretching before or during a workout because it decreases strength, power and endurance performance. In addition static stretching decreases the ability to maintain balance and stabilize joints. Trainers and coaches alike should determine whether they should include static stretching in their training programs and if so, include a seperate training session, preferably on another day. When done separately from a regular workout, it can still be a useful method of increasing a limited range of motion and be useful for everyday activities and increasing performance. Activities that focus on static stretching such as yoga or similar classes can be a good addition. However do not perform static stretching around more intensive workouts.

See also:

-The pro’s and cons of different stretching methods

-Stretching, How and When?

-Muscle soreness: Essential for training results?


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