Writer: BRAD WALKER | Outlet: Stretch Coach
Beware the “Science”
Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for good quality scientific research, however there are two issues I struggle with.
- With the explosion of so-called research popping up every where on the internet, you can find “scientific research” to support just about any theory, idea or bent you happen to have. Take for example the current diet debate; I can find research to support a high fat diet, a high protein diet and a high carbohydrate diet. I can also find research to support a low fat diet, a low protein diet and a low carbohydrate diet. So who do you believe?
- Finding good quality scientific research among the plethora of rubbish out there is extremely difficult. (I’ll go into more detail about this later when I review a number of the scientific articles mentioned in Paul’s article). And I’m not the only one saying this. Greg Nuckols, in his article, When To Trust Research Findings, begins by saying…
Types of stretching (not just static)
In this section Paul claims that “there is no clear evidence that any method of stretching is a clear winner for any important therapeutic goal.” And that “It (PNF stretching) doesn’t increase flexibility any more than static stretching.” He references the following article to prove his claims. (Azevedo, DC. Melo, RM. Alves Corrêa, RV. Chalmers, G. 2011. Uninvolved versus target muscle contraction during contract: relax proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. Phys Ther Sport. 12(3):117–21.)
- I wasn’t able to locate the full article, so I only have the abstract to go off, and unfortunately the abstract doesn’t go into detail on the types of stretching used, other than to say “The Contract-Relax group (CR) performed a traditional hamstring CR stretch, the Modified Contract-Relax group (MCR) performed hamstring CR stretching using contraction of an uninvolved muscle distant from the target muscle, and the Control group (CG) did not stretch.” Without being able to review the precise protocols and methods used it is difficult to determine how the different stretching types were applied, which can make a big difference to the outcomes achieved.
- From my personal experience I have found PNF stretching to be a far superior form of stretching for improving flexibility and range of motion (ROM).
- And finally, I’ve found plenty of research to support my belief that PNF stretching does improve flexibility more than other types of stretching.
There is no “truth” about stretching
In this section Paul makes reference to three studies (below) that conclude that stretching before exercise does not reduce injury.
- Shrier, I. (1999). Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 9(4):221-7.
- Herbert, RD. Gabriel, M. (2002). Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. British Medical Journal, 325(7362):468.
- Pope, R. Herbert, R. Kirwan, J. Graham, B. (2000). A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Medicine Science in Sports Exercise, 32(2):271–7.
After reviewing the studies above I believe they all make the same mistake. Each study uses acute static stretching immediately before exercise, which is the equivalent of doing a set of push-ups before playing tennis and expecting the push-ups to prevent a tennis injury.
So in effect, I actually agree with these studies. Doing acute static stretching immediately before exercise will not prevent injury (or improve performance), but that’s not how you use stretching to prevent injury. I’ll cover this topic in a lot more detail later on but for now…