Stretching for Injury Prevention
One study from the year 2000 investigated the effect of stretching during warm-up on the risk of injury in army recruits. Over 1500 participants were divided into either the stretching group or the control group. Over a 12 weeks training program, both groups performed an active warm up, and the stretch group also performed static stretches. After the twelve weeks, there was no significant difference in injury rates between the two groups.
Bad news for stretching and injury prevention so far (but maybe we should be careful here not to take this study out of its context). Keep reading...
Stretching to Improve Performance
Stretching to Prevent Muscle Soreness
Did you have a hard workout yesterday and are now feeling the consequences? This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, and is common post exercise. Maybe stretching out those sore muscles will help right? Sorry! Evidence suggests that there is no significant effect of stretching for improving post exercise soreness.
Stretching - What is it Good For (Absolutely Nothing???)
Both static and dynamic stretching have been shown to improve our flexibility. This is likely due to a reduction in muscle tone from the central nervous system, rather than actually making your muscles "longer".
What's the Best Way to Stretch?
From what we have read so far, we have determined that stretching can aid in improving our flexibility, however static stretching can be detrimental if performed immediately prior to exercise (in terms of performance). Therefore, it may be best to perform dynamic stretches as a part of a warm up routine.
Make sure you actually "warm up" - not just stretch prior to exercise. This is perhaps the most important part in terms of reducing injury risk, because if we can increase our core temperature and elevate our heart rate especially prior to performing maximal or near maximal effort exercise, our soft tissues will become more pliable and extensible, reducing our injury risk.
Use a combination of static and dynamic stretches to increase your flexibility. And what's more so, once we have we have created new ranges of motion, I believe that we need to make sure that we are strong in these new positions by gradually introducing load in these new positions. This also helps us to reinforce these new ranges of motion, because our brain recognises that we are safe to move into these positions!
Find out what you need to work on! Generic stretching routines never helped anybody. You need to find out the areas that you need to work on, and go from there! Is there a certain position that you need to get into for your job, sport or a special activity? Or do you just wish that you could perform the splits like an elite gymnast? This should help you work out which parts of your body you need to focus on for improving flexibility.
If you're not sure where to start - feel free to ask us for help!
1 - Pope RP, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2000 Feb;32(2):271-277
2 - Andersen J.C. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk. J Athl Train. 2005 Jul-Sep; 40(3): 218–220.
3 - Page P. CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Feb; 7(1): 109–119.