Why Stretch?

Do We Really Need To Stretch? NO!!

  • Stretching doesn’t lead to long term improvements in flexibility.
  • It takes a lot of time for really small improvements in flexibility and this can be achieved more quickly with other methods
  • There is no performance improvement associated with stretching – IT MAY EVEN HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON PERFORMANCE
  • Stretching does NOT reduce your risk of injury!!
  • There are no other significant health benefits to stretching other than potential psychological benefits if you enjoy it and find stretching relaxing

Why the Australian ballet dancers quit stretching?

  • Switched to eccentric strengthening
  • Theory that dancing is dynamic and requires extreme end of range movements but still requires strength at this maximal range – Not flexibility!
  • Removal of calf stretching and replacing with eccentric calf strengthening significantly reduced Achilles tears with no loss of flexibility

If ballet dancers can get away with not stretching, even with the huge range of motion required for their activities, do you need to stretch if you run occasionally?

Stretching does not reduces injury risk

  • Laueresen et al., 2013
  • Decreased injury risk from stretching was 4%
  • Multiple exposure to activity reduced injury risk by 38%
  • Proprioception training reduced injury risk by 45%
  • CONCLUSION – Favourable outcomes were obtained for all injury prevention measures, EXCEPT FOR STRETCHING!! Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries were almost halved!

What does stretching do?

  • Temporarily increases viscoelasticity of muscle for up to one hour
  • DECREASES THE STRENGTH OF THE MUSCLE (And we now know strength is protective against injury so why would you want to decrease it??)
  • As Dr CJ DePalma put it “makes you look like you know what you’re doing”
  • Feels good

What it DOES NOT DO?

  • Increase muscle length long term
  • Prevent injuries
  • Improve performance

So with pre-training stretching you’re getting decreased strength and power with no injury prevention benefit. SOLUTION – Dynamic warm ups and gradually increasing the intensity of the movements you’re about to complete. A static stretch is not having the benefit many people think and is often completed because that’s what has always been done. A coach used to stretch, they teach their athletes to stretch and it becomes a habit. We often have people say “I feel like I need to stretch” but is it that you’re not warm enough yet or is it because it has become part of your routine and you’re used to doing it?

Head physio at Australian ballet

“muscles shouldn’t be passively stretched” we move in to a position actively and come back out of that position, often at speed for the majority of performance sport. You can’t get good, dynamic, explosive, powerful extreme range without strength! This is where extreme flexibility can be detrimental. We need the ability to control a joint at all positions throughout the available movement at speed!

“Firstly, stretching does increase blood flow to muscles, tendons and the fascia that the stretch is involving. It usually reduces tension, if it’s done in a way that allows a ‘let go’ in the muscle group”. Therefore, dynamic stretching where we go in to and out of positions can have this benefit. However, if you hold a stretch for more than one minute, it may inhibit (switch off) the targeted muscles. Then taking these inhibited muscles into a sport or activity with less responsive muscles, they become more vulnerable.

So why do we feel tight? Often because that tissue is working harder. The muscle is unable to meet the demands placed on it and it requires a greater capacity. We may feel a muscle is tight because it is weak, required to work hard and unable to tolerate this load.

Instead of stretching, move regularly to reduce stiffness and spend time strengthening areas that often feel tight so they can cope with the demands place on them.

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