Ever wondered why some training programmes work for some athletes and not for others? Why some people are genetically gifted athletes? Why there is a fixed set of intervals for all athletes? Why certain drugs work for some and not others? Do compression socks work? What the hell does a VO2 max test tell you, is it just useless information? Is lactate friend or foe? I delve into the sport science world and try to find the answers to train smarter and hopefully become a better athlete. This page is written in my own thoughts and words with a cross-pollination from several other sites and links to the original articles. Some of it might sound like a rant but it is written to make you think. So if you read it without a open mind then your in the wrong place. Enjoy and open your mind.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The fallacy of static stretching

Perhaps it's time to re look what happens when we stretch.  You can read the full article Science of Running.  A brief summary. We are bombarded with the words stretch, every thing from stretching helps to remove lactate (more on lactate in a coming post), stretching make you run faster, makes you less prone to injury's bla bla bla.  Dont get me wrong stretching has a place at the right time, and then it is a question of static or dynamic.  But there is research that suggests stretching reduces running economy and would likly hold true for other sports also.  The main idea and research is that the bodys tendons act like a spring, each time when the foot hits the ground the spring is loaded and absorbs the energy from impact, and then a moment later the energy is released to let you jump, run or sprint further.

In a similar way the muscle could be looked at as a elastic band, a new elastic band is fairly springy and has lots of energy stored within which will spring back, as where a stretched out band won't have the same elasticity.  So what this means is the athlete that stretched before he started his plyometric session or run is less economical when you apply the elastic ban principle to muscle.

Here is a short article from FaCT Canada on stretching.  And here are the links to the research if you havnt already read the full article at Science of RunningResearch 1  Research 2 Research 3.


  1. Here is a comment I've had from a fellow athlete who has much insight in to training and I have copied it over to the comments:

    I am not sure there is a FALLACY with static stretching! If you mean static stretching before exercise, then it is total fallacy and it is know by every exercise professional in the game, from elite performance coaches to the personal trainer at your local fitness centre. It is well documented that static stretching pre-exercise can have a negative effect on performance and increase the chances of strain and injury. Dynamic stretching it the recommended form of pre-training stretch which activates the elasticity of the muscle like you mentioned above.
    But static stretching plays a large part in performance and recovery for almost every elite athlete. Although i have never know any athletes to stretch to remove or reduce lactate. But post-exercise stretching is very important to maintain flexibility. After exercise the muscles shorten and then repair so over time without static stretching to lengthen the muscles to normal state again there will be permanent shortening reducing flexibility.i know several athletes that have shortened calfs through lack of stretching which has reduced flexibility in the ankle preventing them from performing a basic squat correctly!! placing added stress on the lower back which could lead to injury.So with the correct application of knowledge you'll do the right stretch at the right time!

  2. After retiring from being a full time athlete I changed the way I stretched, as in I did not really do any! mainly because of time restraints and I could not justify the amount of time I used to stretch and do Yoga to my personal life. however I did find a difference and maybe it was not so obvious because the hours of training were not high but initially I felt that I had been wasting my time stretching as I felt fine and normal, but then after about 6 weeks of training and racing I was able to tell the difference, boy I needed to stretch! I think the important area to watch though is that during Summer training there is plenty of time to stretch after training which most people do and people generally do not do much of a pre exercise warm up session, but what tends to happen is that during the race season we do more of a pre race thing doing stuff, that lets face it we just some top World Cup athlete do, and not the same amount of post race stretching. we must continue to do what we do in the Summer or tweak what we do in the Summer to something we know we can keep up in the Winter so we are able to assess if it is adequate?