Stretch Before Running? It depends.

Image by Roger Erickson

Think that a good stretching session prior to your run will prevent you from pulling a 'hammy'?  Think again.

In a study involving 2,729 runners, injury rates between those who were assigned a pre-run stretch routine, and those who weren't, were the same. 

The study was presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting this week in San Diego.  Study participants were at least 13 years of age, ran a minimum of 10 miles per week, and the stretche routine focused on the muscles of the lower legs and thighs. 

One interesting finding was that runners who normally stretched, and were assigned to the "no stretch" group had a higher rate of injury.  The real doozy is that runners who normally didn't stretch, and were assigned the "stretch" group had the same increased chance of injury!

A key element that wasn't mentioning in the findings is the type of stretching that the study participants performed.  I can understand why a series of static stretches (a stretch that is held for 20-30 seconds), would have no impact on injury rates (or lead to increased injury rates in non-stretchers).  A static stretch isn't suited to pre-workout preparation because it causes your joints to become less stable, your muscles less responsive, and your nervous system to "power down". 

Comparing a static stretch series to a dynamic flexibility routine is tantamount to saying that decaffeinated coffee is like expresso.  A dynamic flexibility routine (moving the body through a full range of motion with momentum) will actually enhance joint stability, increase muscle responsiveness, and "wake up" the nervous system.

For an example of a dynamic flexibility routine, take a look at my previous post, "Psychophysical Fitness".
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. I believe it's important to stretch and warm up first before running or exercising. They help avoid having cramps and possible injuries.