He didn't just say that, did he?
It’s about time. I think the myth can finally be dispelled. I may get chased down the road with pitchfork carrying pre-exercise pro-stretching advocates but here I go. Stretching before exercise is about as useless in preventing injury as one of Hue Heffner’s new girlfriends trying to convince you she has no interest in money. I can hear the shrieks of horror from hear. “He didn’t just say that did he? And he calls himself a physio!”
Before you start making a voodoo doll with my little head on it lets look at the mass of evidence that has been generated over the last decade. We’ll start with the paper published in the prestigious Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisejournal that started it all. In 1999 they gathers 1538 young male army recruits, split them into 2 groups. One group warmed up with a jog only before exercise the other group conducted the same warm-up however in addition conducted a supervised stretching program before exercise. After a 12 week intensive training program the rates of injury among both groups was statistically the same, meaning there was no added benefit to stretching before exercise in preventing injury.
This opened the floodgates into so much research, which has continually found the same result. So what can we take from this? That Hue Heffner’s wife probably stretches before exercise? Yes, but also one of the major findings in all this research is that a warm-up jog or alike is incredibly beneficial in reducing the risk of injury. When they looked at a warm-jog versus no warm-up jog the research is clear. If you start out cold your going to rip, tear, snap or break something. All you need to aim at is generating a slight sweat before you run out onto that paddock to kick the old pigskin to reduce your risk of injury.
Before I come across as an anti-stretching campaigner I need to clear one thing up. Stretching is important. “What! But you just said” … I know, I know, but the goal of stretching is to achieve a more permanent length change in the muscle not merely loosen you up before exercise. This is achieved by stretching at least 3 times a week, holding each stretch for a bare minimum of 30 seconds, then repeating this at least 5 times. With each stretching session you are effectively telling your muscle “You’re too bloody short, grow longer” and it will over time.
The actual muscle length and its chance of damage is all relative to the task you set it. “Is my calf muscle long enough for me to sit at my desk and type on my computer?” Yes. “What about to walk out the front and get the mail?” Probably. “What about running a cheeky 10k?” Now that’s different. The worst offenders are guys who have a fairly sedentary job but then off the cuff think they might play soccer this season because Fred from accounting has started playing and said they need players. Bad idea. Unless you have firstly put in the time to achieve the muscle length you’re going to need to play soccer. You guys know who you are, because you now know me J
In summary lightly warming up before you exercise is good, regularly stretching properly is excellent but stretching only before you exercise, well I believe you I’m sure she truly loves him.