Here I share a few excerpts from The Big Book of Health and Fitness, by renowned researcher and clinician Phil Maffetone. (The chapter is titled “The hidden dangers of stretching”):
“It’s astounding that such huge numbers of people, young and old, athletes and those out of shape, have bought into the notion that stretching is a good idea. This view is widely held despite little, if any, scientific information demonstrating that static stretching is beneficial for most individuals, especially in the way it’s usually done. As a matter of fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence showing that stretching is harmful.”
“Clinicians who evaluated muscle function in athletes observed one outstanding factor: Stretching a muscle could make it longer, the reason it increases flexibility—and this resulted in a reduction in the muscle’s function due to a loss of power. In other words, stretching caused abnormal inhibition—a neurological name referring to a less-efficient longer moving muscle.”
“Most ligament, joint, and other physical ailments are usually secondary to muscle imbalance, which consists of a tight muscle and a loose one—you usually feel the tight one as tension or pain while its cause is a weak muscle. Treatment of these problems must be directed at the cause—the weakness—not the tightness.”
Stretching is an example of shifting the burden. Answer in the comments if you can figure out why.
Also, I’d like to hear what you have to say about stretching: why do you like it? why do you dislike it?
The conversation about stretching will be a recurring theme here on this blog; settling this issue and continuing on to train in the right way is, in my opinion, one of the most important changes we can make to the “typical” training routine.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: The do’s and don’ts of correct stretching for typical athletes do not apply for the people who need an increased range of motion (RoM), such as dancers, gymnasts and martial artists. That said, the commonly-held ones don’t apply either.
UPDATE: In future posts, I’ll be discussing the issue of stretching in a very detailed manner. There are certain strength exercises that aggressively increase RoM—especially hip RoM—but I’ll get into those once I’ve posted about the biomechanic details of stretching (and of how to develop “real” RoM).
Given the excerpts I shared above, it’s extremely important that we approach stretching from an deeply informed perspective. Actually, it’s not just important. It’s critical that we do so, for the sake of our musculoskeletal system.