Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Science

Stretching Before Exercising Weakens Muscles 339

Posted by kdawson
from the everything-you-know-is-wrong dept.
Khemisty writes "Back in grade school you were probably taught the importance of warm-up exercises, and it's likely you've continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes' warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but are actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg's muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Stretching Before Exercising Weakens Muscles

Comments Filter:
  • by moro_666 (414422) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .rotaanimluk.> on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:43AM (#25675255) Homepage

    Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

    By making your muscles weaker, the chance to get an injury decreases as well. People have proved over time (and quite many times) that you are able to hurt yourself with the strength of your muscles alone (ever seen those 100m sprinters falling like bricks on half way ?).

    • by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:44AM (#25675267) Homepage Journal

      It's like most things in that too much of even a good thing can be bad for you. It's very important to limber up before a workout, but anything can be taken to extremes.

      • by multisync (218450) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:57AM (#25675431) Journal

        That was my thought. 20 - 30 seconds is far too long to hold a stretch before exercise. A warm up should be just that - moderate activity to get the muscles ready for your workout.

        When I run, I start with a brisk five minute walk, followed by some easy stretching before I begin my run, but I won't hold a stretch for more than ten seconds. You can also just stretch as you do your warm up, by walking on your toes, kicking your butt, and basically walking like you're applying for a government grant.

        The 30 second stretches are for after your workout, during the "cooling off" period.

        • by MrNaz (730548) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:19AM (#25675707) Homepage

          I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

          While I'm sure that it is possible to overstretch a muscle, especially if you isolate one muscle and use all your opposing musculature to stretch it excessively, the implied message of this article is rubbish. There is absolutely no evidence that stretching before exercise weakens muscles (note I used the exact same phrase as the title) so long as you don't over do it.

          In other news:

          Breathing is bad for you!
          Hyperventilating can result in a situation where you remove too much CO2 from your bloodstream leading to a failure of the breathing reflex, resulting in hypoxia and in extreme cases brain damage or death).

          Exercise is bad for you!
          Bodily ligaments and tendons wear out, just like any other mechanical part, so the more you use them the faster they wear out. The body does have a regenerative effect, but it is not unlimited and the deterioration of the body's ability to maintain joins manifests in arthritis and other related conditions.

          Water is bad for you!
          You can drown.

          These articles brought to you by the Department of Attention Whores with no Sense of Truth or Accuracy.

          • by Chees0rz (1194661) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:28AM (#25675837)
            I have been practicing this methodology for a while now. My highschool and college track coaches (and the assistants coming in) have preached Dynamic stretching (stretching through movement). So you do things like skipping, leg swings, high knee running, and a whole bunch of crazy things. It gets the muscles ready to move- not increase flexibility.


            Increasing flexibility is for after the workout, where you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds (for muscle memory).
            Maybe I have drank too much of the koolaid, but I assume this is what the article is talking about. It's been around for a while (at least 8 years).
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by anothy (83176)

            These articles brought to you by the Department of Attention Whores with no Sense of Truth or Accuracy.

            what an awful acronym.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:45AM (#25676127)

            I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

            How about these:
            Nelson AG, Kokkonen J, Arnall DA: Acute muscle stretching inhibits muscle strength endurance performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):338-43

            Power K, Behm D, Cahill F, Carroll M, Young W: An acute bout of static stretching: effects on force and jumping performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc.2004 Aug;36(8):1389-96

            Cramer JT, Housh TJ, Weir JP, Johnson GO, Coburn JW, Beck TW: The acute effects of static stretching on peak torque, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2005 Mar;93(5-6):530-9. Epub 2004 Dec 15

            Fletcher IM, Jones B: The effect of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 meter sprint performance in trained rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Nov;18(4):885-8

            This is not exactly news. The studies have been showing these same results for years now.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:03PM (#25676395)

              The word "acute" in the title of 3 out of 4 of those papers highlights that what I was saying, i.e., it is not stretching but over stretching that is bad for you. I don't think these papers would suggest that a rugby player get to the field and get into the scrum 20 minutes after getting out of bed and with no preceding activity.

              Well done, it's not often that someone can actually cite references to prove that they missed the point.

              • by ShadeOfBlue (851882) on Friday November 07, 2008 @01:25PM (#25677271)

                Actually, when they talk about the acute effects of stretching, they're talking about the immediate effects.

                That is, weakened muscles are an acute effect because the effect only lasts ~30 minutes. Acute does not mean they stretched the bajeezus out of a muscle before the test.

                Furthermore, you still seem to be having trouble grasping the difference between stretching, static stretching, and warming up.

          • by mopomi (696055) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:56AM (#25676279)
            How could you possibly make your claim that

            There is absolutely no evidence that stretching before exercise weakens muscles (note I used the exact same phrase as the title) so long as you don't over do it.

            if you haven't actually read any peer-reviewed articles about it?! You do know about scholar.google.com, right? It's not that hard to check on the people interviewed in the NYTimes article. There are many papers on the subject. Yes, there is still work to be done to answer all the questions, but your ridiculous statement that there is absolutely no evidence that stretching (static) before exercise weakens muscles just shows that you haven't bothered to read about it.

            Here's your spoon-fed google search with links to a few abstracts for your edification.

            http://www.acsm-msse.org/pt/re/msse/abstract.00005768-200403000-00004.htm;jsessionid=JJgJGzgYVCy4qyLKzfW21kXYSGvYP3tWmM2WDyC6Nr1nvvvH7ykd!-1853705402!181195629!8091!-1 [acsm-msse.org]

            http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED448119 [ed.gov] [PDF]

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368275 [nih.gov]

            http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abridged/325/7362/468 [bmj.com]

            http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119251161/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 [wiley.com]

            http://www.cjsportsmed.com/pt/re/cjsm/abstract.00042752-200409000-00004.htm;jsessionid=JJgpcrQvSRyyCn1CG2XnW4WS6vzdsmrXnhG43kmLDT1CyhhCknr9!1600976923!181195628!8091!-1 [cjsportsmed.com]

            http://apt.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1519%2F1533-4287(2001)015%5B0098%3AAEOSAN%5D2.0.CO%3B2 [allenpress.com]

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              There are many papers on the subject. Yes, there is still work to be done to answer all the questions, but your ridiculous statement that there is absolutely no evidence that stretching (static) before exercise weakens muscles just shows that you haven't bothered to read about it.

              There's a really subtle point that a lot of this work seems to overlook. Muscles are length dependent force generators, meaning that they'll produce more force at longer lengths. One of the things that happens during a prolonged static stretch is that the tendons creep a little, meaning that, at the same joint position, the muscle itself is at a shorter length. If you measure force, stretch, then measure force again at the same joint configuration, you're not measuring the muscle in the same configuratio

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ShieldW0lf (601553)

              I've always thought about it in terms of steel cables and rubber bands.

              If I tie one end of a steel cable to a load that is stuck in the mud and the other end to the back of my truck, and leave it slack, and floor my truck, I'm going to get more snapping power to dislodge the load, but I'm at higher risk of breaking the cable.

              If I tie one end of a bungee cord to a load that is stuck in the mud and the other end to the back of my truck, and leave it slack, and floor my truck, the elongation is going to sap a

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by mopomi (696055)
                Actually, in 4x4 recovery, there's a strap called a "snatch-strap" used to pull stuck vehicles out of mud, etc. It's basically a bungee (with much less elasticity and much higher strength). You attach it to both vehicles, and the recovery vehicle gets a running start, pulls the snatch strap taught, stretching it in the process. The pulling vehicle eventually comes to a stop.

                There's a bunch of energy stored in the snatch-strap, which wants to go back to its original shape. It eventually does return to

          • Well you are right and it's a very well studied problem, proper breathing is very hard to do and if you want to breath lots of times per minute you have to be aware that it can lead to unconsciousness.

            Breathing is a natural pain reliever, and relaxant.

          • I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

            Well, it's not like the implications of the study are that significant to where you have to be ABSOLUTELY sure one way or the other. This isn't a study telling you you'll live 10 years longer if you stop investing. Although it's dubious right now (and I have to say, could still be dubious even after publishing) you could just keep it in mind if you're exercising that there's some indication you shouldn't stretch like that beforehand.

            It really shouldn't have to be 100% believe or 100% doubt when it comes t

          • by DrLang21 (900992)
            Not to mention that there are many peer reviewed articles showing that the elasticity of tendons and ligaments significantly increases with a little stretching, thereby reducing the chance of permanent injury. The fact that your power reduces as a result is only a concern to the most foolishly minded athlete who will not have an athletic career for long.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            You are wrong. A number of studies show that stretching when cold is not a good idea. As the article stated, stretching is good, AFTER, a light warm up like an easy jog for 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching when cold does not help prevent injury, and does not improve athletic performance. You should not do intense stretching before playing sports. If you need to improve flexibility do the stretching as a separate exercise on your work out days.

            Stretch after warm up. [mydr.com.au]
            Stretch after your work-out, Athletes who s [bodybuilding.com]

          • by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:55PM (#25676985)

            I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

            Geeze. I've noticed a certain hyper-skepticism among Slashdotters. Please note that the New York Times is not known for trumping up pseudoscience with no support in the literature.

            Others have responded that the article is not "debunking stretching", just pointing out problems with certain kinds of stretching. And at least one other poster gave references, some of whom involved people interviewed for TFA. More specifically with respect to the studies mentioned in TFA:

            The article cites Duane Knudson, a kinesiology professor at CSU. Peer reviewed research paper [springerlink.com].

            The article mentions a Las Vegas stretching study. Peer reviewed research paper [allenpress.com].

            The article mentions Malachy McHugh, a researcher in NYC. Peer reviewed research paper [acsm-msse.org].

            The article mentions a collegiate volleyball study. Peer reviewed research paper [acsm-msse.org].

            And so on.

          • Actually, yeah, oxygen causes cancer.

            There's a graph of incidence of cancer against oxygen concentration. As you increase the oxygen percentage of the air, the rate of cancer goes up, and if you reduce it, it goes down. If you reduce it too far, you die.

            However, if you plot the curve back to the 0% oxygen axis you find that there's a certain amount of cancer still there- that's the cancer due to other causes than oxygen.

            But there's a gap- some of the cancer that you get due to the normal oxygen levels you n

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Iberian (533067)

          In weight lifting you do not want to stretch your muscles out. In anything more aerobic you want to do light stretching and at the end of both you want to completely stretch your muscles.

          Your muscles are able to put forth the most when they are not all stretched out similar to an elastic band. If you stretch it out several times it starts to lose its ability to snap back as quickly. For aerobic exercise though you don't want your muscles to cramp up which they have an increased chance of doing because of th

        • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:44AM (#25676103) Homepage Journal

          The 30 second stretches are for after your workout, during the "cooling off" period.

          That may be adequate for running, but it won't do for regimens with extreme range of motion, such as martial arts. We stretch for half an hour prior to a workout punctuated with short one-minute warm-ups every five minutes or so, and it definitely reduces injuries (which, as the GP has it, is the intent... not for "strength"... in fact, I've never heard — anywhere — that the act of stretching increases strength for the immediately succeeding session of exercise. I've been teaching martial arts for over twenty years.)

          I can also tell you that if your body isn't prepared to reach an extended position, and it has to go there, either because you forced it to or someone else did, you had better have stretched first and be warmed up.

          As for this line in TFS: "The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds -- known as static stretching -- primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them", the science of this has been known for many years. What happens is that the working elements of the muscle fibers are laid against each other in pairs with an intervening layer between; the more overlap, the more power can be generated because the overlapping surface area of the layer between is where the work gets done. When fibers are stretched, there is less overlap, hence the muscle can generate less power, but the muscle is longer.

          Think of your forearm extended, and look at your bicep... see how it is long? Lots of fiber layers have slid against each other and now have considerably less overlap. Now move your arm to the 90 degree position at the elbow, and look at your bicep; it's bunched up, even if it isn't tense: many fiber layers are now slid to an overlapping position.

          The number of fibers involved is the factor that determines the total amount of strength in your motion; high recruitment of fibers results in a strong motion, low recruitment results in a weak motion. We train to develop the ability to generate high recruitment on demand. But no matter the recruitment, if you start from a highly non-overlapped position, eg a stretched one, you'll generate less power with the stretched muscle.

          This is the basis for moves like arm locks; if the arm is extended, not only is the leverage at the joint reduced, making it more difficult to close the arm against the lock, but the muscle is extended by the lock so that fiber overlap is minimal, which reduces the amount of force that can be generated by the muscle — it is literally a "double-whammy", and accounts for why a fully executed lock is so hard to exit using direct force (correct exits involve rotation of the arm or the lock itself in order to effect closure of the joint, and a good lock prevents such rotation.)

          For any motion, you typically will have two muscle groups involved; the agonist, which is the muscle doing the work, and an antagonist, which is the muscle that would be responsible to reverse the motion. In the case of bending at the elbow, to close the arm, the bicep is the agonist and the triceps is the antagonist. If you are trying to open your arm, that is, extend your forearm, then the roles are reversed: The triceps is the agonist and the bicep is the antagonist. One of the key elements of controlling the force your body can generate is learning to really relax the antagonist, and again, stretching helps by teaching you what a really relaxed and extended muscle feels like; it is difficult to minimize fiber recruitment if you don't know what it feels like and the muscle isn't accustomed to that condition.

          Anyway, my recommendation is that athletes ignore this report entirely; stretching significantly increases your range of motion, particularly in your ankles, legs, groin, waist, wrists, fingers, back, neck and shoulders, and to the degree that your sport requires (or risks) large range o

          • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:52PM (#25676943)
            As a martial artist, I now only do dynamic stretches before practice or sparring. I stopped doing *static* stretches before I spar or work out because it made me slower. My stretching coach told me the same - do the splits and stuff afterward, and do range of motion stuff (like doing light stretch kicks until you build up to your maximum range) beforehand. This is also very important in Judo, where any leg stretches you do beforehand may make your footwork slower and hence make it easier to be thrown. Dynamic stretches also have the advantage of not slowing down your heart rate before your big event.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

      By making your muscles weaker, the chance to get an injury decreases as well. People have proved over time (and quite many times) that you are able to hurt yourself with the strength of your muscles alone (ever seen those 100m sprinters falling like bricks on half way ?).

      From the article:

      THE RIGHT WARM-UP should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body. When youâ(TM)re at rest, thereâ(TM)s less blood flow to muscles and tendons, and they stiffen. âoeYou need to make tissues and tendons compliant before beginning exercise,â Knudson says.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by incripshin (580256)

      Agreed. I have had too many injuries to not stretch. I believe the point is to make your muscles and tendons a bit longer, so that when they're under stress (like during a sprint), it's more difficult to stretch them to the point of tearing. Of course having stretched out muscles means that there's a little more slack, and they won't respond as well. Just guessing, though.

      Somebody I knew ran track for a division 3 college, and their coach wouldn't allow them to stretch. I still find that very strange.

    • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:54AM (#25675397)

      That's exactly what I thought when I read the summary. That it can reduce strength is news to me, but I always thought the importance of it was to prevent injury. And given this is a tech site, I don't see why it matters to most of the people here. Hell, most of us probably don't get enough exercise to begin with, let alone taking it to the level where performance matters.

    • by chaidawg (170956)

      You need to read the article, it seems to depend on gender (maybe):
      Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before trai

      • by afidel (530433)
        It seems as likely that the activity being performed is the determining factor rather than gender, more studies across varying activities probably need to be conducted before generalizations can be made.
    • by weicco (645927)

      Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

      Warming up and stretching is two different things. The idea of warming up is to warm up your joints and chord and get your heartbeat up. Streching has another function which I explain here with an example of ... me! :)

      When I used to lift weight I noticed the same thing that streching makes you weak. Let's say I was working my upper back muscles. I warmed up by doing bent-over rows with light weight

    • Please RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:10AM (#25675609) Homepage Journal
      TFA is not saying that warm-ups are bad, it actually says that they're good. What it does say, is that just stretching is not a proper warm-up. A proper warm-up has light exercise to make you, well, warm. It also says that "stretch and hold" is bad, but exaggerated movements ("dynamic stretching") are good.
    • by plague3106 (71849)

      Sorry, you're wrong. Yes, warming up is to avoid injury. However, stretching, which is what the article discusses, is NOT warming up. When you stretch your muscles "cold" you increase the chance that you'll tear the muscle. A proper warmup is a full body cardio exercise done for a few minutes.

      Of course, I'm not sure why this paper is coming out now.. my trainer told me this same thing two years ago, I suspect it may have been known even longer than that.

      So, if you do a proper warmup (treadmill, sprintin

    • by aliquis (678370)

      That there may be no benefits from stretching has been known for quite some time.

      And as other have pointed out there is a difference in stretching and warming up. When I warm up in the gym all I do is a couple of lighter sets of the first exercise and eventually again later if I'll switch muscle group.

      I don't think many people stretch before a weight lifting session, and I think you'll notice the drop in strength yourself if you do.

      Last couple of times I've done iliopsoas stretch and standing gluteus contra

    • by PinkyDead (862370)

      The article isn't against warm-ups, it is against static stretching, which, as far as distance running is concerned for example, has always been controversial. Controversial in the sense that it was considered by some not to have any value - this research adds weight to that school of thought, even pushing it towards being harmful.

      Dynamic stretching on the other hand, is just an extension of the light jog before exercise - resulting in increased heart rate, greater lung capacity and warm muscles: all good

    • by houghi (78078)

      This reminds me of some test that the Australian army once did. Some with warm up and some without warm up. There was no difference between the two groups (except the time wasted on the warm up).

      Sorry, no link.

    • by Altus (1034)

      Warm up and static stretching are 2 different things. A warm up gets blood flowing to your muscles and might prevent injury but if you bothered to read the article about static stretching (which is what most people think of when they think of stretching) you would have found this line

      "Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help."

      So static stretching is bad

    • They are talking about static stretching, that is the routine of taking a pose to stretch a muscle and then hold it for a while. This is PART of the warm-up routine at time but NOT the same as a warm-up routine. So they say that PART of current warm-up routines is bad NOT that warming-up itself is bad.

      Comprehensive reading, a skill sadly lacking in todays population.

    • In recent years the advice I've been given, from people who pay more attention to stretching than I, is that the warm up is important to ensure that you don't stress the muscles before they are flexible enough. It isn't about stretching them out so much as making sure that the muscles, tendons, ligaments, are warm enough for exercise without risking a tear. This is different then streatching out the muscles which should be done after the exercise when they are at their warmest.

      The purpose then of post-wor

  • Muscle Cramps? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:44AM (#25675269) Journal
    Whenever I took swimming lessons as a kid, we stretched to avoid muscles cramping up in the middle of the water. I would take tired muscles over a leg cramp mid-stroke any day of the week.

    Also when I lift, I would rather be a little weaker than having my arm freeze up as I lift a barbell over my head.

    I don't think I ever had the impression that stretching makes me stronger, just protects me from cramps and overextending. Has this been proven/disproven? I'd be shocked to see so many years of sports medicine overturned by something that could be easily determined through statistics acquired by anyone working out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kijori (897770)

      Absolutely agree with everything you've posted - I was going to say the same thing. To add to that though, this isn't new at all. My exercise book from 2-3 years ago has exactly the same information - stretching will reduce performance, but it's still worth it.

    • by houghi (78078)

      I was not allowed to swim right after eating. That was also believed to be true. The issue is it doesn't hurt to do it. can even imagine that it is good to have this moment to concentrate on what you are going to do.

      From a historical point of view, I can imagine it is not needed. Flight? Hunt? You do not have the time to stretch.

    • When I taught kids to swim, I would have them do a little stretching because it calms them down (especially the 5 year olds). My swimming coaches always had us do a light run before a meet, and then some dynamic stretching before each event. I always felt that the more limber I was the longer I could exert myself, and in swimming we would stretch after practice to maintain and increase our flexibility/ strength.
    • by EvilSS (557649)
      The consensus of most studies on it are that stretching/warm ups offer some benefit in preventing specific types of injury, but not as much as most people thought. A pubmed search for 'stretching exercise injury' should bring up plenty of studies.

      On my lifting days I never do warm ups. Actually I've got the best results from a downward progression system: starting heavy and going lighter as I go to failure. But I'm of the 'big movement/heavy weight' school of thought too. I never bothered when I swim
  • I always thought that other reasons for stretching include getting your heart rate up and getting more oxygenated blood throughout your body (so that, even though you can get more strength by not stretching, your heart isn't burdened unnecessarily). It's not so much for your muscles as it is for other parts of your body needed for the activity.

    • by plague3106 (71849)

      Stretching doesn't do that though, which is the problem. If you want to get your heart rate up and more oxygen to muscles, cardio is how you acomplish that goal.

      I actually makes sense too; do you think we stretched before we started running from the sabor tooth tiger that wanted to eat us? I think we evolved to go from "zero to 60" so to speak.

  • Not stretching causes injuries in sports like karate. Every time I show off and do something like kick over someones head without stretching I pull a groin muscle. If I stretch a bit first I have no injuries and can kick like that all day long if I keep using those muscles.

    So they need to explain to those of us that discover over and over again, that not stretching causes pain and pulled muscles while stretching causes you to be able to move faster without injury.

    • I pull a groin muscle.

      That's a new euphemism to me.

    • by Thyamine (531612)
      I'm right there with you. In TKD we normally do some warm up game or exercise before stretching. And I know I can stretch much better after a warm up compared to trying to stretch 'cold'. However in martial arts I know that the point of the stretching is to help with flexibility as well as avoid injury, so I don't think it specifically has anything to do with strength training in my case.
  • by ShadeOfBlue (851882) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:50AM (#25675357)

    For those of you who don't RTFA, the summary could be misleading. TFA doesn't imply it's best to just jump straight into exercising. Rather you still need to do some warm-up activity (light jogging, jumping jacks, etc..), and then do dynamic stretches, rather than static stretches. What dynamic stretches you should do depends on your sport.

    Furthermore, since this is slashdot, you all probably have terrible posture stemming from over-tight hip-flexors and internally rotated shoulders. Static stretching can be good to loosen the problem muscles. People who bother to stretch usually focus way to much on the hamstrings, when the hip flexors are much more likely to be the problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sdpuppy (898535)
      Exactly. Unfortunately the basic principles are rarely stated; once you understand this simple principle all this advice makes sense:

      1) You want to stretch ONLY muscle, rarely tendon (muscle to bone connections), and NEVER ligament (holds bones together). Think of a mechanical coupling such as ball joints in a car (yes! a car analogy!.:-) ) If they are tight, forces are transmitted as they should be. Loose couplings - not only do your teeth get rattled, but parts tend to wear out.

      Back to the meat worl

    • by cptdondo (59460)

      They're talking about balistic stretching with a different name. For crying out loud, that's a huge cause of injuries.

      Static stretching should hold the stretch about 5 seconds; that's the time your muscles need to stretch before contracting. Anything longer than that is counter productive or unproductive at best.

      Their recommended stretches are bizarre. You should never, ever do balistic stretches with cold muscles. And the bend over and walk thing is a really good cause of lower back injuries. I have n

    • by sdpuppy (898535)
      Also what makes us less flexible? -

      - OK, lot of exercise, your muscles are recovering so they are tight is one reason.

      - not performing exercise to "full range of motion"

      Many sports do not require a full range of motion (running is a good example)

      (some bodybuilders/guys in the gym use short movements to "pump" themselves, but while they build muscle they don't build proper strength. By quoting "full range of motion" I mean that muscle strength is built to within 15 degrees of the movement)

      - imbalanc

  • by HogGeek (456673) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:54AM (#25675395)

    Based on what I've read, stretching/warm-up should be based on your sport.

    For instance, I coach a hockey team, and any stretching is considered bad, as it loosens the tendons, and you are now more prone to injury because "things" can move too far...

    We (the team) do simple warm-ups.

    • i'm no exercise physiologist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but i would think injury comes from tendons that are too tight

      that is, if your tendon is tight, and you quickly snap it with a sudden muscle exertion, you damage them. meanwhile, if you have loose tendons, due to stretching beforehand, sudden snap muscle exertions would tend tonot damage the tendons as much

      so i'm confused about your statement about loose tendons causing injury. i don't think injury is from "things" sloshing around, loose

      • by deraj123 (1225722)
        Seems to me with hockey you may be less concerned with things being yanked, and more concerned with things being knocked around (by opposing players, boards, etc). Hence the "should be based on your sport" thing...
    • For instance, I coach a hockey team, and any stretching is considered bad, as it loosens the tendons, and you are now more prone to injury because "things" can move too far...

      While neither of us likely have scientific data to support us and each person is different, intuitively what you are saying makes little sense to me as an athlete. Baseball players used to believe they should never lift weights either because they believed it would hurt their performance. It was a myth of course but widely believed until fairly recently. A tighter muscle is *more* injury prone just like a weaker muscle is. The amount of stretching and warmup required varies by activity and individual bu

  • by K3ba (1012075) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:54AM (#25675399)
    Most of the negative comment posters below obviously didn't take the time to read the linked article.

    Some types of stretching are good, some are bad. The article explains the differences quite well and still recommends that some stretching takes place...
  • by Emb3rz (1210286) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:55AM (#25675405) Homepage

    I'm a huge fan of the Dance Dance Revolution games. I've ranked highly in both tournaments that I was able to participate in.

    One thing that I've noticed over time is that I usually play better on the second and third songs of my first set than I do for the rest of the night. I don't know if this is related to fatigue (the total lack thereof for the first few songs) or if the so-called muscle stiffness makes the actions more deliberate (and perhaps more precise as a result).

    That said, if I'm going to play the most difficult songs (MaXXes, PSMO, etc) then I definitely need a good warmup. This almost never involves stretching.

  • 20-30 sec? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rzei (622725) on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:56AM (#25675423)

    Where did that come from? I've been taught since being a 6 year old hockey master that you should always do warm up, and then stretch max 10 seconds per muscle...

    Right after exercise, you shouldn't stretch as your muscles should be full of blood, you don't want to rip them open – you should walk or do something light and go to sauna.

    2-3 hrs after exercise you should do those 20-40 sec stretches.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      Hmm, I was told exactly the opposite way around - do light cardio exercise before your main activity, then after you've done, stretch while the muscles are still warm. In fact, I was warned never to stretch with cold muscles because it increases the risk of damaging them.

      • by rzei (622725)

        Light cardio before exercise = warm up.

        Well of course it depends on what you are training.. I forgot to mention that I had only the gym/weightlifting in mind when I wrote my first comment (who thinks before commenting?!).

        When I was in the army we used to do stretch afterwards a running/jogging/march right away, after having had a small break (check your equipment, yourself). Never had any problems with that, but still we aimed to keep stretches below 20 sec.

        In fact, I was warned never to stretch with

    • MOD Parent UP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Don_dumb (927108)
      Agreed. In the UK in the nineties we were taught to warm up and then to hold a stretch for 8-10 seconds (it was really just 8 but 10 was taught as it was 'easier' to remember). This hasn't really changed in gym practice, although some sports coaching has embraced dynamic stretches. Personally I have tried dynamic stretching and found that it didn't go far enough. It possibly doesn't help that I swear by static stretching (after warming up and at the end of exercise) and am quite limber in many areas.

      The 20
  • Since the link requires registration I can't actually RTFA. That said:

    Even accepting at face value that stretching does weaken the muscle (which I do not without seeing the evidence), there are plenty of good reasons to stretch. Exercising without stretching will often limit your range of motion. This can have significant performance consequences as well as making one more prone to injury. Without stretching certain extreme movements (such as kicking high above your head - think dance or martial arts) a

    • Even accepting at face value that stretching does weaken the muscle (which I do not without seeing the evidence), there are plenty of good reasons to stretch.

      I don't think anyone is advocating against stretching, just more of when you should stretch. If you are lifting weights, stretching prior to lifting is detrimental. You should be warming up your movement with progressively heavier weights until you reach you workout weight and go from there. You should then stretch post workout which will help relea

    • by foobsr (693224)
      Without stretching certain extreme movements (such as kicking high above your head - think dance or martial arts) are impossible for most people and they risk injury if they try.

      People risk injury because they are not trained to relax, which is a prerequisite not only for stretch to occur, but also for most (if not all) capabilities within the realm of your wushu/kung fu (ymmv).

      CC.
  • For those who like to RTFA, there is another article [nytimes.com].
  • If you're lifting, what you want to do is to weaken your muscles enough for them to rebuild stronger. So again, starting with a weaker muscle just means that it's easier to get to the point you want. Also, as has already been mentioned, the main point is that it decreases the chance of injury. In short, keep stretching!
    • by fsmunoz (267297)

      Well, yes, but that weakening should be done by progressive overload of weights and not by, say, running for an hour and *then* doing a leg workout: they will be tired and weakened, sure, but the end result will be that you will have to *decrease* the weights (compared with a normal session). I'm assuming the goal is to gain muscle mass.

      It's a bit like - but of an different nature of course - not eating or not sleeping... the muscle will be weakened but you will only lose by not being able to do a proper wo

  • I'm too lazy to look it up, but this isn't anything new. Stretching removes a muscles elasticity which will remove some of it's strength. When I was power lifting I never stretched prior to a big lift. Of course you warm up with progressively heavier weights, but you don't want to loosen the muscle when wanting to move maximal loads.

    Another really bad thing for you is stretching cold muscles, because it can lead to a muscle tear.. You need to warm them up first prior to stretching, and this is why most

  • Not new information. (Score:4, Informative)

    by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:06AM (#25675547) Homepage
    Google "Pavel Tsatsouline" or just go to dragondoor.com. The Russians have known about stuff like this for decades. If you're looking to lose the nerd physique like I did, pickup some kettlebells from the site. Mine are worth their weight in gold.
    • by mpoulton (689851) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:20AM (#25675735)

      ...pickup some kettlebells from the site. Mine are worth their weight in gold.

      Wow! At today's gold price, that's $425,231 for a 35lb kettlebell. I value my physique, but I would have to think twice about that...

    • by JerkBoB (7130)

      Google "Pavel Tsatsouline" or just go to dragondoor.com. The Russians have known about stuff like this for decades. If you're looking to lose the nerd physique like I did, pickup some kettlebells from the site. Mine are worth their weight in gold.

      Seconding this notion... The dragondoor site looks awfully like something you'd see advertised late at night or in the back of cut-rate magazines.

      The exercise is incredible, though. You won't look like a booby-builder, but you'll be STRONG. No more back problems. No more knee problems. Just strong strong strong. Like, worked on a farm all your life strong.

      I have two 16kg bells and a 24kg bell. The big boy is 53lb of evil fun. I like to flip it up and catch it over my shoulder. Try doing that if all

  • if you are trying to build muscle, then the whole point of exercise is to weaken your muscles. muscles are built by overexerting them, forcing the body to build them back up stronger

    if however you are at a track meet, then you aren't just exercising, you are performing. in which case, you don't want your muscles weakened beforehand at all, you want maximum force from them

    but then there is the issue of injury. i thought the point of stretching was to loosen the tendons, so as to limit injury from where your

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:08AM (#25675575) Homepage Journal

    The deleterious effect of static stretching on muscle power has been known for years.

    It's not a matter of static stretching being "bad for you", what's "bad for you" depends on context. Static stretching is a developmental exercise. You wouldn't go to the weight room for serious strength training before a competition, and the same applies to static stretching.

      Well coached athletes have been doing the kind of warm-up exercises described in the article for years, it's just that the word hasn't trickled down.

  • by Migraineman (632203) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:29AM (#25675853)
    I knew it! All those required "stretching" exercises in high-school PE are just designed to make you weaker and easier to control. Y'all laughed at me ... and pushed me around ... and beat me up ... and took my lunch money ... but I was right! Dammit!
  • A friend of mine who worked out often ended up breaking his arm during an arm wrestling contest. His muscles were simply stronger than his bone.
  • bad assumption (Score:3, Insightful)

    by J05H (5625) on Friday November 07, 2008 @11:58AM (#25676311) Homepage

    static stretching is not for warming up before athletic performance - it is for increasing flexibility. Of course it would result in weaker muscle output - the goal of that kind of stretch is to slightly pull the muscle - similar in effect to muscle-tearing during a heavy weights workout - the torn/stretched muscle then should be given the opportunity to heal in it's new configuration.

    Again, it's not supposed to generate more muscle power.

    To properly warm up for a game or athletic performance, you want to stretch some but mostly do repetitive movement. Start small and build up to wider movements. Also for raw power, don't discount heart rate and oxygen uptake - being "up to speed" on heart is in many situations more important than warm muscles.

  • This seems a little like saying: "thinking it through before posting lowers the chance of getting every last random rambling thought onto a forum". Sure, there are *less* words there, but they're more useful.
  • It's been a few years since I took those pre-med human physiology classes, so bare with me. Muscle is much like scar tissue. It doesn't grow unless it is damaged. Stretching doesn't loosen muscle fibers, it essentially breaks them, triggering a growth/increased strength response.

  • by Dallas Caley (1262692) * <dallascaley@gmail.com> on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:33PM (#25676709) Homepage Journal

    I think the author of this article has completely missed the point of stretching. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with increasing or decreasing your overall muscle strength. Additionally it has nothing to do with preventing injury or warming up either. In actuality stretching for humans is the same thing as frogs inflating their bellys. It is solely to attract the opposite sex.

    Study after study has proven than men who stretch their forarms (also known as guns) in front of women have a greater likelyhood of mating. It's a known fact also that women who do yoga are more likely to excel in the reproductive arts.

    A more interesting study would be the effect of biker shorts on your ability to determine potential danger (such as a speeding car) or how fanny packs have led to retardation and uneven hair growth (re. the mullet)

  • by DaPhilistine (710883) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:41PM (#25676811)
    This confirms what I'd already been practising for a while now through personal experience and what I'd read/heard.

    When it comes to doing martial arts classes and other exercises, I typically start with some deep breathing for 1-3 mins (preferably while walking to the class), then follow with a light 50-60% warm up. I have stretched cold before exercise in the past, but it kept causing injuries (I obviously stopped doing that). Then after I finish a class I'll cool down with some stretches while my muscles are warm - which I find I can stretch much further.

    I'm over 30 now and have recently re-started capoeira (so pretty hard for work me), and these high effort classes are getting much harder since I've been out of training for a few years. Getting back in to it I've found (casual observation, no science here ;-) that after a combination of a deep breathing and a light warm up, my ability to train is increased substantially. I'm not exaggerating at all. We're talking the difference between having to stop constantly and feeling like passing out, and carrying on a class just at the edge of my comfort zone. Most of the article seems to back this experience up with some science, which I'm glad about :-)

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. -- Mike Adams

Working...