Stretching exercises are practiced before starting the regular workout to warm up the muscles. People have always believed that stretching before a workout reduces the risks of injury, prevents muscle soreness, and increases performance. What if I tell you it is all nonsense? Sure, stretching has its benefits, but associating it with the traits mentioned above has been debunked through several studies. There have never been any results that proved that stretching reduced injury. It has been found that stretching can lead to injuries during workouts.
Stretching Is Not Warming Up
Stretching is a separate fitness category that should not be mistaken as a warm-up. Before doing the main exercise, for instance, if you are going running, you can start by walking and then increase the speed to a jog. So, that is a warm-up. This is getting the necessary muscles to gear up and later prevent or drastically reduce an injury instead of stretching before running or any workout. Because when you stretch, you are not working the muscles. Instead, you are using up the energy, lowering the muscle force and output. Big surprise, right?
Among all its types, static stretches are given extreme attention and focus. The 11+ Manual reported by the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre has excluded stretching as a part of the warm-up session. Their findings revealed that static stretches could cause a detrimental impact on the muscles, which only worsens when you start the workout. So, adding static stretches will most probably send you to the hospital.
Researchers Anthony Kay and Anthony Blazewitch researched the effect of static stretching on muscle performance. What they did was that before selecting around 100 papers for further examination, these researchers reviewed over 4500 studies. The results showed “overwhelming evidence” of no substantial effect, which greatly shocked the years-long practitioners of stretching.
Stretching Only Decreases Performance
The long-held belief that static stretching prepares muscles is not only untrue but doing so weakens them. The University of Nevada in Las Vegas conducted such research. They found that athletes who had just completed static stretching exerted less force from their legs than those who had not stretched. Further analysis revealed that it caused a 30 percent drop in muscle strength.
According to Malachy McHugh, research director at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital, static stretching causes a neuromuscular inhibitory response. Stretched muscles tend to become less active and stay weak for up to 30 minutes. That makes it more evident that stretching does not decrease the risk of injury; instead, it contributes to the chances.
Effect Of Stretching to Reduce Muscle Soreness
DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is the type that follows the day after you have completed the first day of your exercise. You may have stretched, believing it would keep the soreness away. However, that is far from it.
The George Institute for Global Health, based in Australia, provided evidence that stretching before and after any workout session does not help relieve muscle soreness. The two researchers in the field examined 10 to 30 people. And they used a 100-point scale to assess the stiffness of the muscle. The results revealed minor changes as the estimations showed that muscle soreness reduced by less than 1 point out of 100. And the study was repeated, and consistent results were found that stretching has no hand in relieving muscle soreness.
Does Stretching Prevent Injury?
Researchers at Simon Fraser University performed a study on two groups of people – one group who stretched before a run and the other who did not perform any. The rate and intensity of injuries are the same, even though they performed stretches before and after an exercise. Lauersen et al. conducted a comprehensive evaluation of studies on the effect of stretching on injury prevention in 2014. People with good balance reduced by 35 percent, and those with better strength improved by 75 percent. Stretched played no role in preventing their injury at all.
Anterior cruciate ligament rupture is one of the most common types of knee injuries which occur when turning on the knee pivot goes wrong. So, in these cases, flexibility plays no role because the damage resulted from incorrect movement technique.
Does Stretching Have Benefits?
If on its own, then yes. it has benefits if you practice it regularly and not as a medium to “warm up” your muscles. Unlike static stretches, dynamic stretches or warm-up boosts strength, flexibility, and range of motion. They don’t cause the inhibitory response as found with static stretches because with dynamic stretches; you are constantly moving the muscles. Instead, the brain sends excitatory messages to the muscles. However, there are controversies surrounding dynamic stretches since the study was mostly done on static stretches.
Regular stretching may increase your flexibility, which could be beneficial if you engage in disciplines like dance or gymnastics that require a wide range of motion. Even if it does not prevent injury or remove muscle soreness, stretching can produce a sense of well-being.
Some people perform stretches but don’t rely on them solely before starting any workout. Instead, a combination of static stretches with dynamic and a few warm-up exercises significantly aids in activating muscles. Athletes can evaluate their muscles throughout stretching to see if they are stiff or sore anywhere.
While stretching does not affect muscle performance, whether it is injury prevention or reducing soreness, it can be a good indicator to check for any muscle soreness or stiffness. Science did its best to prove stretching is good, but the evidence was unfortunate. So, next time instead of relying on stretches, you can start with a walk and then jog lightly as a warm-up.
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