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Stretching Before Exercising Weakens Muscles

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the everything-you-know-is-wrong dept.

Medicine 339

Khemisty writes "Back in grade school you were probably taught the importance of warm-up exercises, and it's likely you've continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes' warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but are actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg's muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements."

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Importance of warm-up (5, Informative)

moro_666 (414422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675255)

Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

By making your muscles weaker, the chance to get an injury decreases as well. People have proved over time (and quite many times) that you are able to hurt yourself with the strength of your muscles alone (ever seen those 100m sprinters falling like bricks on half way ?).

Re:Importance of warm-up (5, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675267)

It's like most things in that too much of even a good thing can be bad for you. It's very important to limber up before a workout, but anything can be taken to extremes.

Re:Importance of warm-up (5, Insightful)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675431)

That was my thought. 20 - 30 seconds is far too long to hold a stretch before exercise. A warm up should be just that - moderate activity to get the muscles ready for your workout.

When I run, I start with a brisk five minute walk, followed by some easy stretching before I begin my run, but I won't hold a stretch for more than ten seconds. You can also just stretch as you do your warm up, by walking on your toes, kicking your butt, and basically walking like you're applying for a government grant.

The 30 second stretches are for after your workout, during the "cooling off" period.

Re:Importance of warm-up (4, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675707)

I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

While I'm sure that it is possible to overstretch a muscle, especially if you isolate one muscle and use all your opposing musculature to stretch it excessively, the implied message of this article is rubbish. There is absolutely no evidence that stretching before exercise weakens muscles (note I used the exact same phrase as the title) so long as you don't over do it.

In other news:

Breathing is bad for you!
Hyperventilating can result in a situation where you remove too much CO2 from your bloodstream leading to a failure of the breathing reflex, resulting in hypoxia and in extreme cases brain damage or death).

Exercise is bad for you!
Bodily ligaments and tendons wear out, just like any other mechanical part, so the more you use them the faster they wear out. The body does have a regenerative effect, but it is not unlimited and the deterioration of the body's ability to maintain joins manifests in arthritis and other related conditions.

Water is bad for you!
You can drown.

These articles brought to you by the Department of Attention Whores with no Sense of Truth or Accuracy.

Re:Importance of warm-up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675807)

I think this entire article is a load of attention seeking BS, and I will not believe a word of it until I see a proper peer-reviewed research paper in a medical journal that debunks stretching.

So that means you want Netcraft to confirm it?

Re:Importance of warm-up (5, Informative)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675837)

I have been practicing this methodology for a while now. My highschool and college track coaches (and the assistants coming in) have preached Dynamic stretching (stretching through movement). So you do things like skipping, leg swings, high knee running, and a whole bunch of crazy things. It gets the muscles ready to move- not increase flexibility.


Increasing flexibility is for after the workout, where you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds (for muscle memory).
Maybe I have drank too much of the koolaid, but I assume this is what the article is talking about. It's been around for a while (at least 8 years).

Re:Importance of warm-up (2, Funny)

anothy (83176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675927)

These articles brought to you by the Department of Attention Whores with no Sense of Truth or Accuracy.

what an awful acronym.

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675761)

You see, all this stretching to warm up and stretching to cool down makes exercising take too long. I have a fix though, just put the corn ship on a higher shelf and buy the bigger bags. You'll be combining your stretching and weight training into the same steps. You can also put your screen vsaver on a small timeout so you have to run to the kitchen and back before your game's screwed up looking.

Something else I like to do is put 10lb weights on the vacuum cleaner and broom just before I make the misses use them. And before someone complains about making the old lady do all the cleaning, you have to understand that I did all the work last night when we went on the raid in WoW.

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675879)

You win for oblique Ministry of Silly Walks reference.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

SupplyMission (1005737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675631)

but anything can be taken to extremes.

Not that injuries due to taking exercise to extremes would be a practical risk to anybody posting on this site.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675301)

Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

By making your muscles weaker, the chance to get an injury decreases as well. People have proved over time (and quite many times) that you are able to hurt yourself with the strength of your muscles alone (ever seen those 100m sprinters falling like bricks on half way ?).

From the article:

THE RIGHT WARM-UP should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body. When youâ(TM)re at rest, thereâ(TM)s less blood flow to muscles and tendons, and they stiffen. âoeYou need to make tissues and tendons compliant before beginning exercise,â Knudson says.

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675321)

I would just run in place or do some jumping jacks before a tennis match to get the blood flowing, not really the same thing. For many athletes, stretching is a ritual, which we've known for a while wasn't helpful.

Re:Importance of warm-up (2, Interesting)

incripshin (580256) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675367)

Agreed. I have had too many injuries to not stretch. I believe the point is to make your muscles and tendons a bit longer, so that when they're under stress (like during a sprint), it's more difficult to stretch them to the point of tearing. Of course having stretched out muscles means that there's a little more slack, and they won't respond as well. Just guessing, though.

Somebody I knew ran track for a division 3 college, and their coach wouldn't allow them to stretch. I still find that very strange.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675805)

Stretching helps avoid injury... but NOT if you haven't warmed up. It should be done AFTER (or during as well, if you're doing weights) you're finished your exercise. But the warm up should only be to get your blood pumping. Streching cold muscles / ligamites increases chances for you to tear them.

Think of a rubber band; they're easier to snap when they are really cold. Warm them up, and they are more elastic.

Re:Importance of warm-up (3, Insightful)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675397)

That's exactly what I thought when I read the summary. That it can reduce strength is news to me, but I always thought the importance of it was to prevent injury. And given this is a tech site, I don't see why it matters to most of the people here. Hell, most of us probably don't get enough exercise to begin with, let alone taking it to the level where performance matters.

Re:Importance of warm-up (4, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675555)

Can we please cut it out with the everybody-interested-in-technology-is-a-fat-slob jokes? And the everybody-interested-in-technology-is-socially-inept-and-has-no-luck-with-the-opposite-gender jokes? Seriously, it's getting old.

Re:Importance of warm-up (3, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675783)

Can we please cut it out with the everybody-interested-in-technology-is-a-fat-slob jokes? And the everybody-interested-in-technology-is-socially-inept-and-has-no-luck-with-the-opposite-gender jokes? Seriously, it's getting old.

Yeah not everybody here is like me.
I'm special!

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675851)

I think you really need to get out and get a life.

Re:Importance of warm-up (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675893)

Sounds like someone needs to get laid.

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675945)

I'll stop as soon as you move out of your mother's basement.

Warm-up yes, static stretching no (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675447)

The article does not talk against stretching in general. It suggests that before workout, the stretches should be dynamic and only after workout static.

Re:Warm-up yes, static stretching no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675677)

You posted verbatim what I was going to say.

None of this is new. When I was in high school sports 25 years ago, this is exactly how we worked out.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

chaidawg (170956) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675493)

You need to read the article, it seems to depend on gender (maybe):
Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions. A major study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, on the other hand, found that knee injuries were cut nearly in half among female collegiate soccer players who followed a warm-up program that included both dynamic warm-up exercises and static stretching.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675531)

Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

Warming up and stretching is two different things. The idea of warming up is to warm up your joints and chord and get your heartbeat up. Streching has another function which I explain here with an example of ... me! :)

When I used to lift weight I noticed the same thing that streching makes you weak. Let's say I was working my upper back muscles. I warmed up by doing bent-over rows with light weights. Then I strecthed my upper back by hanging from roof or whatever. I felt weak (and bored) when I started to do the actual exercises with heavy weights (well, heavy for me).

Then I changed my program so that I still warmed up with bent-over rows but didn't strectch at all at that point. I moved to rear pulldowns and did that excersice with loooong streches at up position. I felt strong as a bull and could do a full one hour workout. Afterwards I did light streches because muscles tend to shorten when you lift weights so I streched them to their normal length. But don't over-strech your muscles after a full workout when they are filled with blood and lactid acids. Bad things can happen.

I've had only one sport injury in my life and it was when I was, ironically, streching my quadriceps. Something snapped there and my leg hasn't functioned fully since then.

Please RTFA (5, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675609)

TFA is not saying that warm-ups are bad, it actually says that they're good. What it does say, is that just stretching is not a proper warm-up. A proper warm-up has light exercise to make you, well, warm. It also says that "stretch and hold" is bad, but exaggerated movements ("dynamic stretching") are good.

Re:Importance of warm-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675643)

No slashdot readers are in danger of being injured by their overly strong muscles.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675725)

Sorry, you're wrong. Yes, warming up is to avoid injury. However, stretching, which is what the article discusses, is NOT warming up. When you stretch your muscles "cold" you increase the chance that you'll tear the muscle. A proper warmup is a full body cardio exercise done for a few minutes.

Of course, I'm not sure why this paper is coming out now.. my trainer told me this same thing two years ago, I suspect it may have been known even longer than that.

So, if you do a proper warmup (treadmill, sprinting, etc.) you won't fall like one of the 100m sprinters (who probably fell because they tore their muscle stretching).

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675901)

That there may be no benefits from stretching has been known for quite some time.

And as other have pointed out there is a difference in stretching and warming up. When I warm up in the gym all I do is a couple of lighter sets of the first exercise and eventually again later if I'll switch muscle group.

I don't think many people stretch before a weight lifting session, and I think you'll notice the drop in strength yourself if you do.

Last couple of times I've done iliopsoas stretch and standing gluteus contractions before my dead lifts and those couple of times the workouts has actually become better. But I've only done that for 2 sessions so it's no valid proof yet I guess :D.

For jogging or something such I would just start walking and increase the speed over a couple of hundred meters before starting and not stretch.

I would eventually stretch my calves afterward because sometimes they get so tight it hurts a lot.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675931)

Back in the days when i was in school, warm-ups were there to avoid injuries, not to increase your performance.

By making your muscles weaker, the chance to get an injury decreases as well. People have proved over time (and quite many times) that you are able to hurt yourself with the strength of your muscles alone (ever seen those 100m sprinters falling like bricks on half way ?).

I won't make up a qualifier and say most, but I do know MANY people get injured at the end of their track workouts because of increased speed.

We used to run 12x200m or something at a consistent pace. It is human nature to try to tear it up on the last repeat- but that is how you get injured.
The weaker muscles cannot take the stress being put on them.

Re:Importance of warm-up (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675989)

True but I don't think it avoids injuries by lowering your performance but by preparing your body for physical effort. Especially for people doing this consistently, it can work just because of the force of habit. The body knows because of the stretching that it has to go into the state in which you have good reflexes (for falling and the other hazards of training) such that you can avoid getting hurt. Also, I don't think it's a very serious set back on your performances. I mean, after doing any kind of effort, you are going to have weaker muscles.

Muscle Cramps? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675269)

Whenever I took swimming lessons as a kid, we stretched to avoid muscles cramping up in the middle of the water. I would take tired muscles over a leg cramp mid-stroke any day of the week.

Also when I lift, I would rather be a little weaker than having my arm freeze up as I lift a barbell over my head.

I don't think I ever had the impression that stretching makes me stronger, just protects me from cramps and overextending. Has this been proven/disproven? I'd be shocked to see so many years of sports medicine overturned by something that could be easily determined through statistics acquired by anyone working out.

Re:Muscle Cramps? (2, Informative)

Kijori (897770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675415)

Absolutely agree with everything you've posted - I was going to say the same thing. To add to that though, this isn't new at all. My exercise book from 2-3 years ago has exactly the same information - stretching will reduce performance, but it's still worth it.

Re:Muscle Cramps? (1)

JayAitch (1277640) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675747)

This article should have been published in the 70's. Most coaches I've had in high school (the early early 90's) didn't have us do static stretching before a game/match. We did a 5 min jog around to get the blood flowing followed by light stretching. Not this holding a stretch for 20 seconds business. That sounds like an idea from the 50's (you know duck and cover).

Re:Muscle Cramps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675775)

TFA states that studies have found that static stretching did not reduce the occurrence of injuries.

Re:Muscle Cramps? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675891)

I lift as well; my trainer has me do a warm up.. 5 minutes on the treadmill. No stretching, because it increases chances of a tear. I would think you won't want to tear your muscle while lifting? She also as me stretch during and after, to keep the muscles from shorting and prevent injury. Also, there is research that suggests that stretching after you lift actually stimulates muscle growth more than those that don't stretch after.

Exercise? What's that? (-1, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675287)

Damn it Jim, I'm a nerd, not a jock!

Re:Exercise? What's that? (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675607)

Basement-dwelling nerds rejoice worldwide at this long-overdue vindication of their muscle-enhancement regimen.

How is this news for nerds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675297)

We avoided PE, remember?

Performance vs. Health (1, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675299)

Stretching might be bad for performance, but it does reduce injury. 30% more power in your legs is useless when you snap your achilles tendon. That happened to a coworker who didn't stretch before playing ultimate. They had to dig it out of his calf and re-attach it.

I'll stretch, thanks.

-Peter

Re:Performance vs. Health (4, Interesting)

pthisis (27352) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675489)

The "stretching reduces injury" canard has been disproven in study after study. Warming up may have some benefit, but stretching isn't the way to go if you're worried about injuries.

One study is at http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/stretching-exercises.html [sportsinjurybulletin.com]

As it turned out, stretching during warm-up had no statistically significant effect on the risk of injury, either for soft-tissue problems or bony disorders...Although pre-exercise stretching was totally unimportant from an injury standpoint, other easy-to-determine factors actually did a decent job of prognosticating who would get hurt. For example, age was a good predictor of injury (the older the athlete, the higher the injury frequency)...In addition, 20-metre shuttle-run time was an outstanding predictor (the faster the time, the lower the risk of injury), a relationship which suggested that overall fitness -- not the presence or absence of pre-workout stretching -- had the paramount influence on injury occurrence

Re:Performance vs. Health (1)

TheLostSamurai (1051736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675913)

The "stretching reduces injury" canard has been disproven in study after study. Warming up may have some benefit, but stretching isn't the way to go if you're worried about injuries.

Well, as a rock climber I would have to disagree. You have to realize that pulling a muscle is not the only way to injure yourself while exercising. If I don't stretch adequately before I climb, I will be prone to cramping. If my hand cramps 30 foot of the ground while lead climbing and I can no longer hold the wall, bad things happen. The same is also true of other sports. If a runner experiences a severe cramp while running, there is a very good chance of them taking a face full of asphalt.

Re:Performance vs. Health (3, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675551)

Stretching might be bad for performance, but it does reduce injury.

From TFA:

Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions.

Not the real purpose of stretching??? (1)

Vexler (127353) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675307)

I always thought that other reasons for stretching include getting your heart rate up and getting more oxygenated blood throughout your body (so that, even though you can get more strength by not stretching, your heart isn't burdened unnecessarily). It's not so much for your muscles as it is for other parts of your body needed for the activity.

Re:Not the real purpose of stretching??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675859)

I always thought that other reasons for stretching include getting your heart rate up and getting more oxygenated blood throughout your body (so that, even though you can get more strength by not stretching, your heart isn't burdened unnecessarily). It's not so much for your muscles as it is for other parts of your body needed for the activity.

If static stretching gets your heart rate up, you'll be in cardiac rehab in a few years. The purpose of static stretching before exercise is to induce temporary laxity in the tissues so that a greater range of motion can be achieved about joints.

It doesn't work well, though. People almost always either push too hard or don't hold a stretch long enough. Far better is dynamic stretching, such as performing lunges slowly while paying close attention to form, slow pushups elevated on blocks, etc. This includes the neural component of joint ROM which is usually the real problem if someone is tight.

 

Re:Not the real purpose of stretching??? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675995)

Stretching doesn't do that though, which is the problem. If you want to get your heart rate up and more oxygen to muscles, cardio is how you acomplish that goal.

I actually makes sense too; do you think we stretched before we started running from the sabor tooth tiger that wanted to eat us? I think we evolved to go from "zero to 60" so to speak.

Yeah right... not with martial arts. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675349)

Not stretching causes injuries in sports like karate. Every time I show off and do something like kick over someones head without stretching I pull a groin muscle. If I stretch a bit first I have no injuries and can kick like that all day long if I keep using those muscles.

So they need to explain to those of us that discover over and over again, that not stretching causes pain and pulled muscles while stretching causes you to be able to move faster without injury.

Re:Yeah right... not with martial arts. (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675407)

This is why some sort of warm-up is necessary. It does not necessarily mean stretching, just getting your muscles ready to work. Martial arts may be different somehow, but even my kid's instructor has them doing pushups and running in place before any flexibility exercises are done.

I do not stretch before getting on my bike for 20 miles (my usual ride). I ride slowly for 5 - 10 minutes and then stretch. I find that I can almost touch my toes at that point, whereas before I couldn't even come within 6 inches of them. If I don't stretch at the beginning of the ride, and then shortly afterward is when the muscles hurt and it seems I have been most susceptible to injury. Right now I am recovering from tendinitis for over-aggressively riding some hills and inadequately warming up and stretching over the past few months (due to work/time restrictions). I have learned my lesson and will add the stretching back in when I can get back on the bike.

Re:Yeah right... not with martial arts. (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675483)

I pull a groin muscle.

That's a new euphemism to me.

Re:Yeah right... not with martial arts. (1)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675661)

I'm right there with you. In TKD we normally do some warm up game or exercise before stretching. And I know I can stretch much better after a warm up compared to trying to stretch 'cold'. However in martial arts I know that the point of the stretching is to help with flexibility as well as avoid injury, so I don't think it specifically has anything to do with strength training in my case.

Warm-up still important (5, Insightful)

ShadeOfBlue (851882) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675357)

For those of you who don't RTFA, the summary could be misleading. TFA doesn't imply it's best to just jump straight into exercising. Rather you still need to do some warm-up activity (light jogging, jumping jacks, etc..), and then do dynamic stretches, rather than static stretches. What dynamic stretches you should do depends on your sport.

Furthermore, since this is slashdot, you all probably have terrible posture stemming from over-tight hip-flexors and internally rotated shoulders. Static stretching can be good to loosen the problem muscles. People who bother to stretch usually focus way to much on the hamstrings, when the hip flexors are much more likely to be the problem.

Re:Warm-up still important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675549)

I'm definitely in the over-tight hip-flexor boat and it causes problems with my cycling (activity of choice). I do some things to address this that I learned through physical therapy following a lower back injury, but I'm curious if you have links to any other resources addressing this problem?

Re:Warm-up still important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675639)

I've done nothing with my life but sit on my arse staring at computers, yet I can still fold over perfectly flat with my face on my knees (even while standing up). Standing on stairs, I can touch the next step below without bending my knees. I can also get about 80% to side-splits. I need some exercises which *reduce* my hypermobility, heh

Re:Warm-up still important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675653)

Jimbo: Set your flexors to stun!
McGay: He's dead, Jim.

Re:Warm-up still important (2, Informative)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675755)

Exactly. Unfortunately the basic principles are rarely stated; once you understand this simple principle all this advice makes sense:

1) You want to stretch ONLY muscle, rarely tendon (muscle to bone connections), and NEVER ligament (holds bones together). Think of a mechanical coupling such as ball joints in a car (yes! a car analogy!.:-) ) If they are tight, forces are transmitted as they should be. Loose couplings - not only do your teeth get rattled, but parts tend to wear out.

Back to the meat world, for example, if your collateral ligaments (sides of knee) are loose, then there is side to side play in your knee joint, your movements are less efficient, forces are applied in directions which they're not supposed to leading to injuries. (also think of football and ACL/PCL - knee ligament injuries) Now if your leg tendons are loose, your leg muscles will be like a stretched out string - less efficient in the full range of motion.

2) You want to stretch warmed up muscle, not cold, since cold will resist the movement. If you stretch cold, you will tend to stretch tendon & ligament and your body will resist more (see #1)

The trend in Yoga now is to work on positions after warm up. In the past (at least from my POV) they discouraged "pushing" into positions so injuries were averted - by warming up both by exercise (some forms combine Pilates type movements) and sometimes external heat, attaining flexibility is made more efficient and less prone to injury.
An amazing book to read on the subject of flexibility is "Science of Flexibility" by Alter. It has probably all you want to know on the subject.

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Science-Flexibility-Michael-J-Alter/dp/0736048987 [amazon.com]

Re:Warm-up still important (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675797)

They're talking about balistic stretching with a different name. For crying out loud, that's a huge cause of injuries.

Static stretching should hold the stretch about 5 seconds; that's the time your muscles need to stretch before contracting. Anything longer than that is counter productive or unproductive at best.

Their recommended stretches are bizarre. You should never, ever do balistic stretches with cold muscles. And the bend over and walk thing is a really good cause of lower back injuries. I have no idea who wrote that section of TFA, but they clearly have no clue.

And, yes, I'm a certified personal trainer, cycling instructor, and work with people on improving their performance quite a bit.

Depends on your sport (4, Informative)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675395)

Based on what I've read, stretching/warm-up should be based on your sport.

For instance, I coach a hockey team, and any stretching is considered bad, as it loosens the tendons, and you are now more prone to injury because "things" can move too far...

We (the team) do simple warm-ups.

this doesn't make sense to me (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675635)

i'm no exercise physiologist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but i would think injury comes from tendons that are too tight

that is, if your tendon is tight, and you quickly snap it with a sudden muscle exertion, you damage them. meanwhile, if you have loose tendons, due to stretching beforehand, sudden snap muscle exertions would tend tonot damage the tendons as much

so i'm confused about your statement about loose tendons causing injury. i don't think injury is from "things" sloshing around, loose, but instead from "things" being yanked beyond their point of elasticity

again, just a layman's conception, so i stand to be corrected. or perhaps supported with a more scientifically sound articulation of what is exactly going on with the tendons and the potential for injury during sports exertions, and what role stretching beforehand plays with your potential for injury

Re:this doesn't make sense to me (1)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675973)

Seems to me with hockey you may be less concerned with things being yanked, and more concerned with things being knocked around (by opposing players, boards, etc). Hence the "should be based on your sport" thing...

Stretching should be a part of most sports (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675703)

For instance, I coach a hockey team, and any stretching is considered bad, as it loosens the tendons, and you are now more prone to injury because "things" can move too far...

While neither of us likely have scientific data to support us and each person is different, intuitively what you are saying makes little sense to me as an athlete. Baseball players used to believe they should never lift weights either because they believed it would hurt their performance. It was a myth of course but widely believed until fairly recently. A tighter muscle is *more* injury prone just like a weaker muscle is. The amount of stretching and warmup required varies by activity and individual but it's a rare individual that wouldn't benefit from at some well chosen stretching exercises.

In my experience as a college athlete [wikipedia.org] (yes there are some of us on slashdot) when we did not stretch regularly and appropriately muscles tended to get pulled because we exceeded our range of motion. Though admittedly anecdotal, in over 20 years in my sport I've seen exceeding one's range of motion injuries happen far too often to believe there is nothing to it. The stretching needs for different sports are, well... different as you point out but but stretching is useful and has its place in most of them.

Note to self: read linked articles before posting! (5, Informative)

K3ba (1012075) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675399)

Most of the negative comment posters below obviously didn't take the time to read the linked article.

Some types of stretching are good, some are bad. The article explains the differences quite well and still recommends that some stretching takes place...

Re:Note to self: read linked articles before posti (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675699)

Most of the negative comment posters below obviously didn't take the time to read the linked article.

You must be new here. I mean, seriously new.

This makes sense intuitively (1)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675403)

Take a piece of elastic material, test its strength at a certain length, then stretch it as much as you can, let it snap back and test it at the same length again. I'd expect it to provide less pulling power at that length after the stretch, even if it's an organic stretchy material that's attached to bones and can change it's actual stretchiness at will.

...Revolution! (2, Funny)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675405)

I'm a huge fan of the Dance Dance Revolution games. I've ranked highly in both tournaments that I was able to participate in.

One thing that I've noticed over time is that I usually play better on the second and third songs of my first set than I do for the rest of the night. I don't know if this is related to fatigue (the total lack thereof for the first few songs) or if the so-called muscle stiffness makes the actions more deliberate (and perhaps more precise as a result).

That said, if I'm going to play the most difficult songs (MaXXes, PSMO, etc) then I definitely need a good warmup. This almost never involves stretching.

Re:...Revolution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675811)

If thats the case you might want to try Stepmania, a free and open source dancing game based on DDR. http://www.stepmania.com/

20-30 sec? (2, Informative)

rzei (622725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675423)

Where did that come from? I've been taught since being a 6 year old hockey master that you should always do warm up, and then stretch max 10 seconds per muscle...

Right after exercise, you shouldn't stretch as your muscles should be full of blood, you don't want to rip them open – you should walk or do something light and go to sauna.

2-3 hrs after exercise you should do those 20-40 sec stretches.

Re:20-30 sec? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675573)

Hmm, I was told exactly the opposite way around - do light cardio exercise before your main activity, then after you've done, stretch while the muscles are still warm. In fact, I was warned never to stretch with cold muscles because it increases the risk of damaging them.

Re:20-30 sec? (1)

rzei (622725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675815)

Light cardio before exercise = warm up.

Well of course it depends on what you are training.. I forgot to mention that I had only the gym/weightlifting in mind when I wrote my first comment (who thinks before commenting?!).

When I was in the army we used to do stretch afterwards a running/jogging/march right away, after having had a small break (check your equipment, yourself). Never had any problems with that, but still we aimed to keep stretches below 20 sec.

In fact, I was warned never to stretch with cold muscles because it increases the risk of damaging them.

Totally correct AFAIK. I guess that's the hardest part of doing stretches 2-3 hrs after exercise, you'd need to warm up a bit, but you are all ready to go to sleep after shower and eating, and somehow that TV/bed doesn't require you to do any warm up :)

MOD Parent UP (2, Insightful)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675597)

Agreed. In the UK in the nineties we were taught to warm up and then to hold a stretch for 8-10 seconds (it was really just 8 but 10 was taught as it was 'easier' to remember). This hasn't really changed in gym practice, although some sports coaching has embraced dynamic stretches. Personally I have tried dynamic stretching and found that it didn't go far enough. It possibly doesn't help that I swear by static stretching (after warming up and at the end of exercise) and am quite limber in many areas.

The 20+ second stretches were never taught, it was 16 post exercise.

Now I know there is a lot of evidence to suggest that pre-exercise stretches are not-necessary but personal preference. I personally would not do anything that puts my joints to the limit (such as kicking or dumbbell flys, etc) without stretching the relevant muscles beforehand. I guess the principle for me is that a static stretch, takes the muscle further than the acutal action and therefore loosens the hamstrings et al so they don't snap when used in anger.

The problem many people have is that they stretch when cold and that is simply counter productive or just plain dangerous.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675427)

Just recently I decided to see if stretching before my bar league vball game would help.. I ended up tweaking my knee by the end of the night. Just say no to stretching and yes to a light workout with weights before an event.

Range of motion & injuries (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675429)

Since the link requires registration I can't actually RTFA. That said:

Even accepting at face value that stretching does weaken the muscle (which I do not without seeing the evidence), there are plenty of good reasons to stretch. Exercising without stretching will often limit your range of motion. This can have significant performance consequences as well as making one more prone to injury. Without stretching certain extreme movements (such as kicking high above your head - think dance or martial arts) are impossible for most people and they risk injury if they try. If you don't stretch, you might be stronger for a limited range of motion but you *will* be weaker at the extremes. It's a rare sport where you will not have to move at least some muscles through a full range of motion at some point.

For some good reading check out this FAQ [stason.org] about stretching. It's been around a while and not everything in it is gospel but it's a decent and approachable overview.

Re:Range of motion & injuries (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675543)

Even accepting at face value that stretching does weaken the muscle (which I do not without seeing the evidence), there are plenty of good reasons to stretch.

I don't think anyone is advocating against stretching, just more of when you should stretch. If you are lifting weights, stretching prior to lifting is detrimental. You should be warming up your movement with progressively heavier weights until you reach you workout weight and go from there. You should then stretch post workout which will help release muscle tension and provide for better blood flow (which will help with any DOMS).

And yes, it's been known for years by anyone who powerlifts that stretching prior to a lift will make you weaker. The 'tightness' helps move the weight and is something you want when trying to move maximal loads.

Re:Range of motion & injuries (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675963)

Without stretching certain extreme movements (such as kicking high above your head - think dance or martial arts) are impossible for most people and they risk injury if they try.

People risk injury because they are not trained to relax, which is a prerequisite not only for stretch to occur, but also for most (if not all) capabilities within the realm of your wushu/kung fu (ymmv).

CC.

And... (0, Offtopic)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675439)

In related "news": A new study funded by General Foods and Monsanto finds that working out and eating whole foods are really bad for you. The dietitians and trainers involved in the study recommend that everyone eat as much aspartame and genetically modified food as possible. And now back to your regularly scheduled American Idol.

yoga? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675443)

It may be true for athletes who look for strength. But if you stretch mainly for flexibility it is different.
And in yoga you look for flexibility and strength at the same time, which may be the best of both worlds.

And what about the contortionists [contortionhomepage.com] ?

Follow-up Article (1)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675457)

For those who like to RTFA, there is another article [nytimes.com] .

Weakening the muscles is a good thing (2, Informative)

teebes (1001834) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675473)

If you're lifting, what you want to do is to weaken your muscles enough for them to rebuild stronger. So again, starting with a weaker muscle just means that it's easier to get to the point you want. Also, as has already been mentioned, the main point is that it decreases the chance of injury. In short, keep stretching!

Really Old News... (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675495)

I'm too lazy to look it up, but this isn't anything new. Stretching removes a muscles elasticity which will remove some of it's strength. When I was power lifting I never stretched prior to a big lift. Of course you warm up with progressively heavier weights, but you don't want to loosen the muscle when wanting to move maximal loads.

Another really bad thing for you is stretching cold muscles, because it can lead to a muscle tear.. You need to warm them up first prior to stretching, and this is why most fitness people will recommend that the most important time to stretch is post workout.

Re:Really Old News... (1)

bigox (158657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675529)

Yep, this has been in every issue of Men's Health for years.

Yawn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675511)

No shit sherlock; damage to microfibers from static stretching has been known for decades.

No real athletes stretch cold.

Whenever any physiology, biochemistry or medical topics are posted on slashdot I am reminded of the vast gulf between know-it-all jack offs, spouting yesterday's mainstream dogma, with knowledge entirely derived from google and someone with real expertise. It is measured in light years.

While holding forth on this, I also find it amusing the soi-disant skeptic attitude always affected by such twats. Whatever wikipedia tells them must be right even though they lack sufficient background data to even distinguish between shit or shinola.

Here is a hint: if you know so little about a topic that you have to google to make a comment then you should shut the fuck up.

stretching causes pain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675519)

Growing up playing soccer, BMX (racing and ramp tricks), and skateboarding (mostly halfpipe). Anytime I stretched my muscles would be loosy-goosy and out of control and I was in for an accident and pain. Learned never to stretch and now it appears I wasnt the only one that knew it was bad.

What about the nerds? (1)

holychicken (1307483) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675521)

This article didn't talk at all about how warming up for a long day of posting on slashdot. . . err. . .I mean working! Before heavy typing, I do a warm up known as "tickling the ivories." You wiggle all of your fingers up and down rapidly and move your hands from side to side across your entire desk. I haven't had a SINGLE muscle pull in my fingers yet. Warning: I have suffered a number of minor concussions from getting smacked in the back of the head by my boss for looking like such a tool. So I am not responsible for an injury you might sustain from doing this.

News creating news (1)

eric-x (1348097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675527)

next month: "sudden increase in sports injuries".

will they ever get their facts straight? (0)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675539)

Eggs are bad for you, whoops now they're good. Alcohol is bad for you, oh wait, red wine is good. And now we shouldn't stretch before exercising. I'll just stay put until they get around to discovering that exercising is bad for you and cathode rays are good for the skin. And Mountain Dew? They'll find out Yellow Dye #5 is the elixir of life.

Re:will they ever get their facts straight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675979)

No one who understood what they were talking about ever said eggs were bad. The cholesterol in the yoke is barely absorbed due to it being bound to other chemicals (forget the names offhand).

Alcohol IS bad for you. Red wine has beneficial effects due to resvesterol and probably other compounds, NOT the alcohol. Alcohol is toxic, it's just that our bodies have built in filtering mechanisms that can keep us safe to an extent.

Don't blame science for retarded pop journalists.

Mellow Yellow has higher concentrations of Yellow Dye #5.

Not new information. (3, Informative)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675547)

Google "Pavel Tsatsouline" or just go to dragondoor.com. The Russians have known about stuff like this for decades. If you're looking to lose the nerd physique like I did, pickup some kettlebells from the site. Mine are worth their weight in gold.

Re:Not new information. (3, Funny)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675735)

...pickup some kettlebells from the site. Mine are worth their weight in gold.

Wow! At today's gold price, that's $425,231 for a 35lb kettlebell. I value my physique, but I would have to think twice about that...

depends upon what you want (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675567)

if you are trying to build muscle, then the whole point of exercise is to weaken your muscles. muscles are built by overexerting them, forcing the body to build them back up stronger

if however you are at a track meet, then you aren't just exercising, you are performing. in which case, you don't want your muscles weakened beforehand at all, you want maximum force from them

but then there is the issue of injury. i thought the point of stretching was to loosen the tendons, so as to limit injury from where your tendons are quickly snapped from a tightened state. and if you are at a track meet, you are placing yourself in a position where you can injure yourself easily by demanding maximum performance from your muscles

so the findings are interesting, but their application isn't so straightforward as the story summary suggest

This is old, old news. (3, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675575)

The deleterious effect of static stretching on muscle power has been known for years.

It's not a matter of static stretching being "bad for you", what's "bad for you" depends on context. Static stretching is a developmental exercise. You wouldn't go to the weight room for serious strength training before a competition, and the same applies to static stretching.

  Well coached athletes have been doing the kind of warm-up exercises described in the article for years, it's just that the word hasn't trickled down.

Gym Rats know this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675585)

When I was into body building (Beer and IT have since cured me of my vain ways) stretching happened after the workout to retain flexibility. Everyone knew stretching weakened you.

Not news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675625)

For what it's worth, as someone involved in the strength training community, this is not news to any serious athlete or coach. It's been known for years (decades?) that stretching before training generally decreases performance. And that, in fact, beyond achieving and maintaining the (usually rather small) amount of flexibility directly necessary for one's sport, stretching is not a productive use of training time.

By the way, geekdom and lifting weights are not incompatible! Being into writing code or whatever else doesn't mean you have to be a skinnyfat weakling!

Exercise is overrated for weight loss (0, Offtopic)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675669)

I've lost 15 pounds all by exercising less and eating only meat (fatty meat is a bonus), vegetables, nuts, some fruit, dairy (whole milk, cheese, lots of cream, etc). and cooking only in olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Of course, exercise is still good, but the people that do it 24/7 in a desperate bid to lose weight while still scarfing down refined sugars and highly processed vegetable oils are going to fail miserably. That is what has created this myth that losing weight is hard.

Re:Exercise is overrated for weight loss (1)

samos69 (977266) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675917)

Good luck with your narrow views and *shudder* atkins style diet. I think you'll find that a balanced diet with moderate exercise is best for weight loss and overall health.

So what? (1)

dp_wiz (954921) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675675)

Weakens muscles? Good for us! Every RPG player knows that it's easier to train a lower stats.

The term "exercise" is too broad, it depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675711)

Limit stretching before weight training. The goal in weight training is to lift the most you can for a certain number of reps (and reps depends on your specific weight training goal). Stretching does limit that ability. However you definitely need to stretch after weight training otherwise your range of motion will decrease.

For aerobic exercises its like others have said, you don't stretch before exercise so much as warm up.

Swear I've Heard this Before (1)

jlf278 (1022347) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675821)

My wife told me static stretching reduces performance over a year ago. Since then I've stopped stretching before my weight lifting. Since then, I've been warming up for each lift by performing 12 reps with light weight and an extended range of motion. It's made a big difference.

Let's research more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675845)

So, tell the same scients to research about how not streching can cause muscle rupture. I never had this kind of problem but I've already saw some people having this problem. Be careful, you can get injuried.

Public Education Conspiracy (2, Funny)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675853)

I knew it! All those required "stretching" exercises in high-school PE are just designed to make you weaker and easier to control. Y'all laughed at me ... and pushed me around ... and beat me up ... and took my lunch money ... but I was right! Dammit!

Tim Lincecum does not do typical pitcher warmups (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25675939)

I wonder if that is part of his success as a pitcher. He avoids the typical lengthy warmups that other pitchers go through and pitches "cold". I am not saying this is the reason for his greatness, but it may be a factor.

You're all liars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675959)

Any of you who exercise aren't allowed to come here and post.

Also.. WTF.. Slashdot news for nerds?? More "Attracting Jocks since the end of the election"

Slashdot seems to have gone really down hill a lot recently.. half of the news isn't even news, the other half of the half isn't technical, and the rest seems like people trying to promote their blog.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25675969)

It has been over a decade since 30 second static stretches. Warming up means exercising the target muscle in a similar manner. Stretching is not a warm up, it is stretching; something you do after workouts.

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