Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stretching Is Dead?

Here we go again. I don't do well with hard opinions on complex issues. If there's a child in the S&C community that's been unfairly bullied over the past few years, then static stretching is the one.

"Static stretching makes you weak and slow."

Really? Gymnasts and martial artists are weak and slow? Look, I get the research, and if you do a lot of static stretching immediately prior to an athletic endeavor that requires high muscle tension, then you are an idiot. But, that does NOT mean it has no value in the world of strength and athletics. Sometimes I wonder if the coaches who are so quick to throw out static stretching are the ones who have trouble clipping their own toenails because their hamstrings (and lower backs) are too cranked up... it's too bad, because maybe, with diligence, they could wear shoes with laces again.

Stretching, just like everything else, is a training tool. If a little is good, it doesn't mean that a lot is necessarily better. Context and need dictate which tools, when, and to what extent.

I'd go on, but I'd just sound like some doofus pseudo-intellectual wannabe. Thankfully, Lyle McDonald (an actual intellectual) has written about this recently in this article entitled Static Stretching and Refined Grain Intake By Paleo Man - Research Review


Alexander said...

Static tretching... already back in the 80's I learnt that:
-stretching decreases speed and strength, so you should do it after your workout. But you have to do it.
-that you should relax into stretch.

I am surprised to see that this stuff has come back as new findings. Plus ca change...

Alexander said...

Lyle's article was very interesting. Thanks.
Happy New Year!
(thinking of static stretching's rep made me jump the keyboard :-)

Tommy said...

I find light static stretches to be okay prior to exercise, isometric stretching I save for post-workout.

Doing some dynamic stretches prior to exercise helps me warm up and loosen up. Stretching is important.

fawn said...

The more I stretch the better I feel. I don't care what the research says. If the best I can do is make it to the top 20 female raw lifters on Powerlifting Watch (which I have), I guess that is what I will have to settle for. I'm not giving up the stretching.

Boris said...

Thanks everyone. Dynamic stretches are great too, but I'll be totally honest - most "dynamic warm-up" routines leave me gassed and weak as hell for different reasons. I think a lot of those are just extra GPP, and I'm not big on that as a warm-up. I guess you could acclimate to it, but I'm lazy.
Stretches, followed by a sport specific warm-up (as suggested by Lyle) are what I have ALWAYS done, and until recently what most people did anyway.

I agree with you 100%.

Aaron Friday said...

"Static stretching makes you weak and slow"

Except for the 99.5% of the rest of your time on Earth, when it makes you feel better, calmer, and more relaxed.

Boris said...

Feeling better, calmer, and more relaxed is probably stronger and faster in most situations outside of gym Aaron. Good point.

Mike T Nelson said...

Hi there Boris!

Great blog and I love your info!

As you know, I do respectfully disagree with static stretching though.

Of course it is not going to make your knee cap shoot across the room or make you instantly as weak as a kitten; but I don't feel it is an optimal way to increase strength and movement efficiency.

Most don't want to give it up since they assume their movement will get worse. I agree that athletes of all types need to move well and movement quality is of high importance, I just don't think static stretching is the best tool. I would much rather have athletes do dynamic work and joint mobility work.

Drugs make you feel good too, but I would not recommend them.

Rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
Extreme Human Performance

Boris said...

I've always looked at improving movement quality under an umbrella of 'mobility work' that includes dynamic and static stretches and drills. We are throwing out the baby w. the bath water when it comes to static stretching. No, it's not the best tool at all times for every purpose, but if you are sitting in front of the tv, for example, and your hamstring flexibility is a hindrance, wouldn't it make sense to do some stretching then, or should we worry it will make us weak (which I honestly don't think it will)?

Not sure I get the drug analogy. If we're going to use it, then drugs have their place too - I won't be worried about anesthesia messing w. the CNS prior to surgery, for example.

Thanks for dropping by Mike. I've always enjoyed your stuff, so the respect is mutual even if we don't agree.