It’s common practice for runners to do stretching exercises, but what are the real benefits of stretching?
Here's what the current studies say on this topic’s most commonly held beliefs:
Stretching is a great warm-up.
False: Stretching does not increase muscle temperature, which is the main purpose of a warm-up. A lower intensity activity, such as a brisk walk or a slow jog for 10 to 15 minutes before your workout, will prepare your muscles to cope with the demands of running and reduce the risk of injury.
Pre-workout stretching prevents injuries.
False: Static stretching decreases the sensitivity of muscles when stretching, making them more susceptible to injury. Moreover, this decrease in muscle sensitivity has a negative effect on performance (speed, strength, power, and endurance).
Stretching prevents muscle soreness.
False: Post-workout stretching gives a sense of relief to sore muscle groups, but this sensation is only temporary and does not limit the onset of muscle soreness.
Good muscle flexibility increases performance and reduces the risk of injury.
True: Even though pre-workout stretching increases the risk of injury, stretching regularly outside of training sessions has a positive influence on the risk of injury. Moreover, the literature shows that increased flexibility has a positive impact on speed, strength, and power.
You can never be too flexible.
False: In regard to flexibility and risk of injury, runners who are hyper-flexible are more at risk than those who have little flexibility. It is recommended for those who are too flexible to limit flexibility exercises and opt for a strengthening and stabilization program instead.