Avoid stretching? The NY Times offers us some great advice and Dr. C. Weighs in.

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Avoid stretching? The NY Times offers us some great advice and Dr. C. Weighs in.

Years ago, before running or working out, we were advised to stretch. If you ran track, it was the norm to stretch before you ran and worked out and some coaches actually forced a stretch on muscles with the belief that this was beneficial. Things began to change around 30 years ago when authors like Robert Guida in his book Total Body Training (out of print but can be found on the internet) said stretching was bad before working out and dynamic exercises were better and created better athletes.

Years later, we understand the fascial system much better through the works of Myers and Steckel who show that the problem is not the tight muscles, but the fascial sheath surrounding them and that tightness is an expression of mechanical inefficiency and adhesion formation. The book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain simplifies these concepts for the average person and helps them understand why they hurt.

Our usual recommendation is to stretch after activity, and warm up using exercises prior. Many athletic trainers are understanding that it is tight myofascia that is usually the problem and that the use of foam rollers is an excellent way to limber up in exchange for what we used to do with stretching. You can find our excellent video on how to use a foam roller on our youtube page here.

Yoga is based on stretching but has exercises such as bridging as well, so the benefit may come from the combination of sustained stretches and exercise, however, all practitioners will tell you that if they do not do it for a few days, they tighten up. While there is value in many Yoga exercises, the stretching may not be doing what its practitioners claim since fascia cannot be stretched, and foam rolling, a form of fascial relief may be preferable. In my experience, patients who foam roll before their Yoga class have an easier time participating since it helps their flexibility during the class; not a bad thing at all.

Read the NY Times article here


Most of us grew up hearing that we should warm up with a stretch. Strike and hold a pose, such as touching your toes, for 30 seconds or more, we were told, and you"™ll be looser, stronger and injury-proof.

But anyone who follows fitness science (or this column) knows that in recent years a variety of experiments have undermined that idea. Instead, researchers have discovered, this so-called static stretching can lessen jumpers"™ heights and sprinters"™ speeds, without substantially reducing people"™s chances of hurting themselves.

Now, two new studies are giving us additional reasons not to stretch.

One, a study being published this month in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, concluded that if you stretch before you lift weights, you may find yourself feeling weaker and wobblier than you expect during your workout. Those findings join those of another new study from Croatia, a bogglingly comprehensive re-analysis of data from earlier experiments that was published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Together, the studies augment a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

Many issues related to exercise and stretching have remained unresolved. In particular, it is unclear to what extent, precisely, subsequent workouts are changed when you stretch beforehand, as well as whether all types of physical activity are similarly affected.

For the more wide-ranging of the new studies, and to partially fill that knowledge gap, researchers at the University of Zagreb began combing through hundreds of earlier experiments in which volunteers stretched and then jumped, dunked, sprinted, lifted or otherwise had their muscular strength and power tested. For their purposes, the Croatian researchers wanted studies that used only static stretching as an exclusive warm-up; they excluded past experiments in which people stretched but also jogged or otherwise actively warmed up before their exercise session.

The scientists wound up with 104 past studies that met their criteria. Then they amalgamated those studies"™ results and, using sophisticated statistical calculations, determined just how much stretching impeded subsequent performance.

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Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain is available through Amazon.com and other major booksellers on line.