Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS
Question: I was reading some on-line news today and noticed an article in the New York Times that said static stretching may be harmful. Is this true? Should I stop doing my typical stretches based on the latest research?
Answer: The simple answer is a resounding “NO”! This article is one of many examples of research on very specific populations in very specific settings that is wrongfully applied to the general population, and therefore is very misleading and confusing. The latest research on static stretching indicates that if you are about to perform a high jump or a sprint in a competition, performing a static stretch as part of your immediate warmup before the event may reduce your performance (i.e., your height or your speed). Interestingly, this effect has not been proven to be true with very elite athletes, but has been demonstrated in several studies on collegiate level athletes. As for static stretching before or after your typical workout (non-competitive performance), static stretching has not been studied for any long duration workouts; only anaerobic activities of very brief (less than 60 second) duration have even been the subject of static stretching research so far. So, for the average recreational athlete or runner who is going on a 3 mile run, performing static stretching will not damage your muscles and will not noticeably reduce your performance. If you are nervous about any possible deterioration in your performance, try a functional warmup prior to your workout instead and save the static stretching for after your workout as part of your cool down routine.
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