Is stretching really necessary? Does it actually prevent injuries or lead to more? What’s better before a workout: dynamic or static stretching? There are a lot of questions out there about stretching and flexibility, so it’s hard to know what to listen to anymore. To get to the truth and confirm or debunk these beliefs, we talked with Sue Hitzmann, founder and CEO of MELT Method, who says there are a lot of myths about what stretching is doing to our bodies. And it’s worth learning about because “our connective tissue is what is so relevant to good health, flexibility, strength, performance, aging, and longevity.”
Here is the real truth behind the 10 biggest myths about stretching, according to Hitzmann:
Myth #1: If you’re flexible, you don’t need to stretch.
Well, that’s not really true. In fact, many people who appear to be very “flexible” are actually hypermobile in joints due to dehydrated connective tissue that surrounds the joints. For example, many yogi’s look super flexible–and they are–but it’s where they are flexible, near their joints that can ultimately increase their risk of injury, strained tendons and ligaments. Regardless if you are flexible or stiff, you should MELT to restore your connective tissue first, then apply strength and stretching modalities to your body. You will perform better and reduce your risk of injury by focusing on your connective tissue system before your muscular system.
Myth #2: You should only stretch after a workout.
Recent science is validating that if you hold stretches for long periods of time and then perform any strength based movements you actually decrease your ability to perform at high loads. It’s better to stretch after a workout so you can more effectively benefit from stretching.
Myth #3: Stretching can decrease your muscle strength and output.
Unfortunately, what most people do not know is that isolated static stretching immediately before exercise may impair a person’s strength and power and has no effect on injury prevention. Several papers have been published which has produced a substantial body of evidence that stretching may not be the way to improve performance and decrease risk of injury. There are two studies that have reported that strength was reduced up to one hour after static stretching.
Researchers also found differences in the effects of two different types of stretching, acute stretching just before exercise and regular stretching performed over a period of days outside of exercise. They found that there was no benefit of acute stretching on isometric force production, isokinetic torque, or jumping height. In addition, they found that regular stretching after exercise improved strength, jump height, and running speed. These findings suggest that acute stretching before exercise had no positive effects on strength and power while regular stretching after training or competition improved strength and speed.
Myth #4: Stretching can lead to injury.
Really any activity can lead to injury! Stretching or yoga or anything. The reality is we don’t really educate people on how to stretch, and we all just assume the positions taught are beneficial. However, just because you do a down dog or stretch your hamstrings doesn’t mean you are going to achieve the results you desire. Lots of people stretch and actually strain their own ligaments and tendons. There are so many better ways to improve flexibility while also improving the stability of your joints far outside of static or dynamic stretching protocols that should be considered. .
Myth #5: Dynamic stretching is better than static stretching.
I’m going to agree on this. I am a fan of AI Stretch (active isolated stretching) and anything that moves you first slowly and in short range to ultimately faster longer ranges of movement. All moves to some extent stretches muscles by the way. I suggest dancing or just moving around to music for 10 minutes before you run or do a repetitive exercise routine.
Myth # 6: Holding a stretch for more than 20-30 seconds doesn’t do any good.