Hate to Stretch? Don’t Have Time to Stretch? I Have Good News!

January 16, 2009

I have never admitted this before, but I hate to stretch. It bores the heck out of me.

When I stretch, I always think to myself that I could be using this time to burn more calories doing HIIT. I have a limited time to workout, so I simply avoid stretching. I’m going to talk about a better and more efficient way to maintain flexibility and prevent injuries.

Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know, stretching before lifting makes your muscles weaker for that workout.

man stretching before running

[Stretching before going for a run. A waste of time, or a smart way to avoid injuries?]

I Develop My Deep Hatred for Stretching in 7th Grade

I am going to talk about something that still upsets me! It revolved around a “physical fitness” test we used to have to take twice a year in Junior High.

If I remember correctly, we had to see how fast we could run the mile, how many situps we could do in 60 seconds, and a brutal stretch test.

test of hamstring flexibility

[This is the evil test I am referring to! Kryptonite for tall guys like myself. In the 80’s I feared the Impending Nuclear War with USSR, Barbara Streisand, and This Test.]

A 13 Year Old 6’3″ Freak -vs- Junior High PE Teacher

Yes, I stopped growing at the age of 13. I was really good in sports back in those days, but wasn’t flexible at all. My PE teacher’s name was Mr. Tyler.

He was out of shape, probably around 50 and had bad onion breath most of the time. I used to argue with him that flexibility had nothing to do with athletic ability. I was an outstanding sprinter and long jumper (for a 13 year old anyway) but was getting my butt handed to me in the flexibility test.

He said that I would never be a good athlete if I didn’t work on flexibility. I disagreed with him back then and still disagree with him to this day.

Before I Rip Current Stretching Practices Apart…

Studies have shown that a limited amount of stretching can be beneficial. That being said, it is MUCH less than what many people think.

After doing quite a bit of research which for the most part proves my point that a lot of stretching is a waste of time…I did find a study that showed a benefit of a limited stretching schedule.

Here is the Irony about my stretching rant. I will probably add in a very small amount of stretching into my schedule after doing all of this research.

Does that make Mr Tyler right and make me wrong after all of these years? Nope!

Stretching As A Way to Prevent Injury?

Mr Tyler, like many Junior High PE teachers, really liked to insure we did a lot of stretching before any activity. Heck, he wanted us to stretch before playing ping-pong (I still love ping-pong, but without the 10 minute stretching sessions).

The rationale behind it was that it helped prevent muscle injuries. If we were going to run a mile and Mr Tyler was around, you could count on 20 minutes of stretching.

After 3 years of stretching, I improved very little in the flexibility department and more than anything felt like I was wasting a lot of time.

Kapooka Health Centre: A study in Australia tested 1500 recruits for a 12-week training program. Half of the recruits performed stretching exercises as a warmup. The other half did not stretch at all. Overall the group that stretched had an injury rate of 22% and the group that didn’t stretch was at 21%.

University of Sydney: A study examining several other stretching studies…”We can say with a high degree of confidence that stretching does not prevent muscle soreness,” says Herbert. “We can’t rule out that it reduces injury risk, but the weight of evidence is against it.”

Time to For The Technical Side of Stretching to Be Examined

Don’t worry, I will keep is simple to avoid “zone out”. I know that the Internet is a “skimming” medium, so I’ll stick to the major points. The first thing to talk about is the two types of flexibility.

1. Active Flexibility: This is the range of motion you have under muscular control. Swinging a bat, throwing a ball, a karate kick, etc.

2. Passive Flexibility: The ability to hold extended positions using the weight or your body or other outside force. An example would be touching your toes or doing the splits.

Improving Passive Flexibility Can Create a Flexibility “Deficit”

Typically doing stretches that improve passive flexibility, won’t improve active flexibility to the same extent. The difference between passive flexibility and active flexibility is called the “flexibility deficit”.

A large flexibility deficit can create a condition for injuries to be more likely to occur. So in some ways, many of the recommended stretches can create a risky imbalance.

Lifting With a Full Range of Motion Increases Flexibility

It has been shown that lifting under a full range of motion is the best way to increase your range of motion (active flexibility) while lifting. So when you are warming up with light weights, make sure you use a full range of motion to increase flexibility.

This makes logical sense, right? To increase your range of motion lift with a full range of motion.

Note: If you are doing partials and lockouts in a certain exercise to increase strength in that exercise, you may want to add a few sets right after this where you do a full range of motion.

Stretching Before Exercising Can Reduce Muscle Strength

There are several studies showing that muscle strength can drop by 5-30% after stretching.

Supposedly stretching the muscle inhibits it’s ability to contract. The crazy thing about all of these studies is that they can’t nail down precisely why strength and power decrease with static stretching.

They acknowledge that the muscle isn’t as stiff after stretching and “believe” that this makes the muscle less likely to create as much torque.

Here are a few studies for further reading:

Wayne State College Study: Showing that bicep strength decreased 5% in tested subjects after performing static stretches.

McMaster University Study: Showing that calf strength decreased by 30% after stretching the calf muscle. This same study also measured that calf strength was still quite a bit weaker 60 minutes after stretching.

The Proper Way to Warmup Before Lifting

Basically lift with light weights and complete the full range of motion for a few sets. I recommend that you mimic the speed and tempo of lifting heavy, but with lighter weights.

You don’t want to throw the weights up and down like a piston just because they are light. “Pretend” like the weights are heavy and move at that tempo, even if the weights feel extremely light. This is also a great way to increase your strength levels in a lift.

Here is a post I did on that subject: Lift Light Weights for Low Reps to Gain Strength and Muscle Definition

Stretching Without Wasting Time…for The “Haters” 

Yes, I’m way too old to be using a word like “hater”. Forgive me…I was feeling crunk (don’t even know what that means)…back to the post, sorry! If you do want to increase your flexibility a bit, stretch after you exercise. Don’t click away just yet, it will just take a couple of minutes per day…

University of Central Arkansas:  This is my favorite study of all. The found that doing one 30 second stretch per day in a muscle group increased flexibility slightly more than doing it 3 times a day for 60 seconds.

My Stretching Summary

  • No need to do before training, it makes you weak
  •  Warmup involves doing a light version of the movement through a full range of motion
  • If you need to increase flexibility, perform just one stretch for 30 seconds each day

Note: As always there will be exceptions to the rule.

Things like injury rehab and specialty sports like gymnastics require a different approach.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan - Home Calisthenics January 16, 2009 at 5:22 am

Hi Rusty,
some good points raised. In my opinion the decision to stretch or not to stretch depends on the activity to be carries out. If we’re talking about strength training with weights then I agree that there is no need to perform static stretches the old skool way like the PE teacher insisted upon. But, a few shoulder rotations, swimming movements, air punches etc are all forms of dynamic stretching and in my opinion aid strength training.

I agree with the concept of lifting lighter weights that mimic the next evolution this pumps the blood to the active muscles and contains vital hormones and energy supplies.

I also advocate stretching after a strength workout to release any fibres that may be ‘stuck’ and a warm down to flush the muscles of lactate ready for the next activity.

Just my opinions.

Regards,

Dan.

Adam Steer - Better Is Better January 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

Hey Rusty,

Great article. You know it’s funny, I also hate stretching, but I’ve become one of the most flexible guys I know of. Except flexibility is a bit of a misnomer. I much prefer to differentiate between mobility and flexibility. I wrote a pretty detailed post of my ideas on the subject. Basically it comes down to something similar to your idea of active vs passive flexibility. If you don’t have muscular control over a ROM, you don’t own it!

As for warm-up, I like to through in some joint mobility work and maybe some dynamic movements before going into my actual “training effect” work. This lubes up the joints, washing them with synovial fluid, before you start putting them under load.

Last thing, I like what Mike Robertson, strength trainer, has to say about weight training: It will reinforce whatever range of motion or compensating pattern that you happen to have while you are lifting. So, like you said, its important to lift through your full ROM. But if you want to increase ROM you do have to do a bit of work outside of that lifting…

I’m glad I’m not the only one to hate stretching!

Cheers,
Adam

Note: Here is the link of a post I did on what I’m talking about: The CST Mobility / Stability Symbiosis

Son of Grok January 16, 2009 at 8:43 am

Awesome. I hate stretching. Thank you or all the good info!

The SoG

joe January 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

Randy

Excellent summary. I have also found that after stretching for a number of years in my workouts, my flexabilty was still not significantly better than those who did not. After your article a few weeks ago on turbulance training, I began doing that vs HIIT this winter because of the cold weather and snow we are experiencing here in the NE. (I hate HIIT in cold, dark, snowy, icy weather). I have surprisingly found that my body movements are “feeling” smoother and more graceful. Cant expleain it but its true.

As an aside regarding stretching. My karate master (8th degree black) has some very wise words regarding stretching. In the “real world” self defense situations do not allow you the time to stretch or warm up. One needs to be ready RIGHT NOW. Counterattacks should be geared to simple, effective techniques that get more precise with age. One should improve with age, not deteriorate. His mantra is strength and flexability are temporary, knowledge is cumulative. Wise man.

David at Animal-Kingdom-Workouts.com January 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

You’re preaching to the choir here. I’ve NEVER liked stretching. I basically came to the same conclusions you did on my own. Stretching after an activity can have some benefit, but there’s no point when your muscles are cold. Great post!

– Dave

Yash January 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

Ohhhhh maaan i hate stretching. My summer workout routine had a yoga day and a stretching day and I would usually end up substituting HIIT or tkaing a rest day instead. However, my passive flexibility was noticeably better even after just a few workouts. I was curious, why doesn’t ballistic stretching have as much of a negative impact on your workouts as much as static? Is it because you aren’t maintaining your muscles in the streched state and they’re in that position for less time?

I heard one analogy long ago about a sprinter or runner and how if he was more flexible and if his stride could be improved by even several inches, it would result in a faster time, which would be a huge benefit considering the small margins of victory in sprint races. But judging from what you said, since static stretching wouldn’t increase his active flexibility, would he have to use full range of motion lifting? Would that translate to a longer stride or are you simple increasing flexibility in the lift?

I’ve also heard that for injuries, soft tissue work is beneficial [foam rollers and tennis balls]. The idea of rolling around on a ball before of after my workout for 10 minutes seems weird, even more so than stretching. I’d be interesting in hearing your take on it.

Jacob January 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Rusty,

Good post! I was just like you in junior high. If we ran the mile fast enough the first time we didn’t have to run the second time. I never had to run the second time. That damn stretch test though……there may have been times when I didn’t even reach the block.

A physical therapist I know never lets their patients stretch before exercise. It can actually make things worse than better.

Mike OD - IF Life January 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

I don’t like stretching, never have….but a few hockey injuries (due to tight posterior hip/ham/glut muscles) sure keeps it real for me. I do more active warmups (lunges) and then add in a couple lower back/hamstring stretches at the end of my workouts just to keep good ROM for future injury prevention. Got a foam roller at home too for fun, call it my $10 chiro as I can crack my back up and down it while watching TV.

Caleb - Double Your Gains January 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Rusty you crack me up!

haha, you’re so “crunk”!

I totally agree though, only dynamic activities before stretching and passive stretching afterwards… the good thing is this type of “little bit” of passive stretching afterwards will help you recover from the strength training!

At least that’s what Alexander Faleev (a russian powerlifting champion says), this is from an article by the “evil” Russian Pavel:

“Faleev stresses that you must wrap up each strength workout with static stretches. “The benefits of stretching are enormous. Stretching can increase your strength by 10%. It is a lot.” The man explains that “when you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is. Until the muscle has restored its length, it has not recovered. Hence he who does not stretch his muscles slows down the recuperation process and retards his gains.” Besides, tension and relaxation are the two sides of the same coin, “if the muscle forgets how to lengthen, it will contract more poorly. And that is stagnation of strength.”

So yeah — some static stretches after your workout not only help injury prevention and increase flexibility but can even make you stronger!

Great article again Rusty!
— Caleb

Bonnie January 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Thank you very much. Now I know why ballet and yoga bore the bejeezers out of me. Yay for lifting and running! Now I don’t feel so bad for my 30 second or less stretching habit. 😀

Andrew R - Go Healthy Go Fit January 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

When we did the stretching test, my teacher would yell at me and say that if a pizza was on the block, I’d be able to touch my toes! I feel your painful memories bro!

All the Best,

Andrew R

Brad January 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Rusty- First time comment here, really enjoying your blog and checking everyday for new posts!!
I recently got into yoga. I’ve done it a handful of times in the last few years: Hot Yoga, Bikram yoga, Hatha, Vinyasa, etc… mostly for my wife’s enjoyment. Now I am turning the corner and starting to enjoy it, my ultimate goal is to go weekly, maybe 5 times a month. I want to be Laird Hamilton, you see.
I noticed you mention yoga once in this entire blog and it was in the context of picking up chicks- great move by the way! Now, with these stretching studies and all- where does that leave yoga? Am I wasting my time?

Aloha- Brad.

Jon January 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm

rusty, from what i read based on studies done, stretching doesnt prevent injury from exercise, so i think its a waste of time. michael jordan said stretching allowed him to play as long as he did without getting tha many injuries, but recent studies are saying differently, so who knows. i find it boring as hell too. i think a warmup like a small jog or walk is probably better than stretching to get your muscles warmed up and ready for intense exercise.

JE Gonzalez January 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm

That test you write about was the only thing I excelled at in High School PE, that and dodgeball. I really liked stretching actually, but seeing as how it is rather useless, I never do it anymore.

Helder January 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I always Loved stretching, i think it’s because it was easy for me, and i could get good results fast, it was also a part of my kickboxing days. I also learned the hard way that being too flexible while lifting heavy is a sure road to injury, cause i had a severe one in those kickboxing days, once at the gym performing a very heavy set of squats, i got injured in my inner upper tigh (i don’t know the name in english, so that’s my way to locate the place)

I then learned that when you’re very flexible, your muscles and tendons get weaker, so while i kept practicing kickboxing i didn’t lift really heavy again to avoid injuries.

Nowadays i stretch regularly, but without pushing too much, and never in lifting days.

Bob January 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Rusty,

Awesome site! I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been eating it up ever since. But I do have to comment about one of those exceptions to your stretching post.

I’ve been lifting now, off and on, for about 18 years (Wow, I should have muscles the size of Mac Trucks by now, but I must remember the “off and on” part of my last sentence). Anyway, during that time I’ve done many lower back exercises like Good Mornings. And I’ve got say, if I don’t stretch out my lower back and hamstrings before lifting I’m just asking for an injury.

I’ve tweaked my lower back enough times in those 18 years to know that the necessity of stretching before doing Good Mornings is just a pure fact. And let me tell you, no lifting injury SUCKS as bad as a lower back injury. Happily, I’ve never tweaked it to bad. Oh yeah, I always lift lighter weights at first too.

Now, I never lift my maximum doing Good Mornings. I just try to do a little more weight each week and that is good enough for me, so maybe a slight weaker muscle isn’t affecting me as much because of this. For instance, last Tuesday when I did my Good Mornings for the week, I only did 3 sets of 200 pounds (with 3 minutes of rest between each set).

Anyway, I haven’t tweaked my lower back for years now, but the key that I had to learn the hard way in order to avoid this was to really limber up my lower back/hamstrings before I work them. ON THE OTHER HAND, stretching my other muscles before I work them is a non-issue and most of the time I don’t do it at all.

Just some thoughts.

Bob

P.S. your blog really does ROCK though.

Matthias January 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

So I consider stretching largely misunderstood and misused. It’s great for bringing down the tonus (residual muscle tension), which can be a bad thing is tight muscles. So I strech my often tight hip flexors (mainly from sitting way too much). Using it as a warmup or injury prevention is based on what we know today stupid.

I use joint mobility and activation exercises as part of my general warm up like you read in articles from Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Michael Boyle, … .
And I seem not to be the only one as Adam Steer commented about the same here.

@Yash:
Self myofasical release and soft tissue work in general is great. Do it. It realy helps.

gabriella January 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Dear Rusty,
I actually really enjoy stretching, i don’t know maybe that’s because i’m a girl. most guys i know don’t like to stretch. I tried a hot yoga class a few times that was pretty intense. I’m a little confused though. Does this post only pertain to stretching and lifting? Are you saying that stretching before other physical activity weakens you as well? and i was under the impression that yoga was a a type of strength training? just asking you to clear some of that up.

gabriella

Jennifer January 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Those dance moves are hilarious! I don’t remember that show…I guess I’m a bit young, but man, is that hip roll thing they do ever sexy (in a really choreographed, 80s kind of way)! I think I will try it out this weekend at the clubs! I’ll let you know the reaction I get!

Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips January 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Hey Rusty,

I’m in the minority here because I actually like static stretching. I generally do my stretches first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I never do them just before lifting and I warm up with light weights so this should reduce my “flexibility deficit”. However, I keep the static stretches in there because I want to maintain my flexibility as I age. Whatever your opinions are on static stretching and lifting, are you not worried that by ignoring static stretching you will lose some flexibility as the years go by?

Regards,

Tom

Hulbs January 16, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Hi Rusty,

Good points re. stretching and I agree it is way overrated. I’m a long distance runner nowadays and average about 50-70 kms per week and i do very little stretching.

I’ve found the key to staying injury free as a runner is not stretching but using slow jogging as the way to warm up and cool down prior to and after every run.

I’ve done stretching as part of specific soft tissue injury rehab and I agree that had benefits but once I rehabed the injury I reduced the stretching back to twice a week. I find that as a running it’s much more important to do a bit of leg strengthening of the quads (i.e one leged body weight squats), calves (calf riases) hammies and glutes a couple of times a week then worry about stretching too much.

Hulbs

BurritoKid January 16, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Sometimes my legs get really sore and may even cramp up after intense hiit sessions. I feel like streching helps with this, is this just in my head?

MrBunny January 16, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Hi, this is my first ever post to this site but certainly not a newbie as i have been following your site religously for several months now and believe it to be the best website i have ever come across in my life. Your advice makes so much sense and it works, i just want to let you know that your words have changed my life and i am sure that i am not the only one.

I have yet to meet a person who likes stretching i know i too always hated it in school but now days i just stretch for no more than a minute each day just to loosen up some joints, helps after sitting at the desk all day.

I just started my training 6 weeks ago and went from 188lbs to 174lbs. However, i only started properly implementing a clean diet two weeks ago…all thanks to you and i only train three times a week for 30 minutes (10 minutes resistant training followed by 20 minutes HIIT). I have a concern though is that my diet now consist of meat, fruit, veg, milk, water and nuts and i only cook in olive oil (i cook all my food). I don’t eat any processed foods as my main concern is maintaining a healthy body not just being lean. The rare occasion i may splurge on some junk food (once a month). I don’t eat carbs except from what i get from the fruits, veg and nuts and wondering if this is ok? I know tribes in Africa only eat fruits, veg and meat and don’t seem to have a problem. I don’t want this type of eating to be just for a weight loss but a way of life for me which i am very happy doing. I just come across a lot of sites that avoiding carbs from potatoes and other stuff can be dangerous!

I apologise for the long post but so happy to be posting on this site.

Brad January 17, 2009 at 12:26 am

Whats up Rusty. I have to admit, I found this post pretty funny. I to am 6’3 and absolutely hated stretching growing up and well into my mid twenties. I was always about the least flexible student in PE and HATED the sit and reach test that you have pictured above! Like I said I was never flexible at all but like you, I was a good athlete in highschool, college and beyond.
Now, I am a PE teacher and I have to make the kids perform the same dreaded sit and reach test that I hated so much! It is required of me as a PE teacher, I can’t help it!
Anyways, a few years ago I developed some very painful knee tendonitis. I was told the only way for me to really get rid of it was through stretching. I thought that seemed stupid but I thought I would actually give it a try. So for close to 3 years now I have been stretching 6-7 days a week for 10 minutes after my workouts, never before workouts. I have to admit, it has helped so much with my tendonitis as I’m hardly ever bothered with it anymore. I don’t like stretching at all but I can’t argue with the benefits that I’ve received from it so I just make it a point to do it at the end of every workout.
I agree, it sucks but for me it has been worth the time. Take care!

Brad

Matthias January 17, 2009 at 5:07 am

@gabriella: “Are you saying that stretching before other physical activity weakens you as well?”

Yes, it does. See for example http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18.. which shows that it has negative effects on sprinting. …

Bonnie January 18, 2009 at 1:10 am

Yoga, I believe, isn’t really meant to be used in conjunction with heavy lifting, it’s meant to keep you supple and grounded-and, indeed, in some ways, strong. Think more towards martial arts rather than boxing or strength competition. Using yoga or pilates as cross training for something heavy and intense like lifting isn’t exactly the smartest idea in the world. 😛

admin January 18, 2009 at 4:38 am

Dan,

Are you sure you aren’t related to Mr Tyler? Just kidding buddy…I agree with the concept of different activities requiring differing degrees of stretching.

Adam,

Great addition as always! You bring up a good point. I always do my best to maintain great posture and spinal alignment when lifting. Too much bad posture is made worse because people train their muscles to emphasize that posture they had when lifting. One of the biggest reasons I prefer planks over crunches is that I’m training my abs to be tight when my spine is in a neutral position…this is the same alignment it has when you are standing. I see too many guys with the “pulled forward” look.

SoG,

I used to feel a bit guilty for not stretching. It was one of those things that I always thought I should be doing, but never got around to do. Now I can limit it to a minute or two per day.

Joe,

I like the idea of “being ready right now”. I know you have probably already seen this, but I have to put up “Rex Kwon Do” from Napolean Dynamite. I have featured this video once before, but it is just too funny…

“Take a look at what I’m wearing people. Do you think anyone wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad-boys? Forget about it!”

David,

You have a different view point from mine, but some serious original thinking. I love what you are doing over there. Animals are generally in much better shape than people. I know you don’t really like doing lifts to get in shape. In one sense I agree with you, because I don’t advocate heavy lifting for the legs. Glad both of dislike stretching 🙂

Yash,

I think injury rehab is an exception. Injuries require a different approach. Some stretching may be necessary for injury prevention, balancing muscles, etc. I can’t comment on soft tissue injuries (no experience with that). I have done extensive research on spinal rehab, but this is because I suffered a brutal back injury about 20 years ago.

Jacob,

I never came close to the block! These days you couldn’t pay me to do that stretch. This is terrible for people with existing back injuries.

Mike,

Have you done a post on your site on the foam roller? It would be a good guest post if you haven’t. I would like for someone knowledgeable (and who uses one) to write about this. I’ll send you an e-mail, if I don’t hear from you.

Caleb,

I’m “hella-crunk”!

I never thought of stretching from the strength angle. You know I’m a HUGE fan of Pavel and his Soviet lifting principles. So I’ll make sure and do at least a 30 second stretch of the main muscle I worked after each workout. I can spare 1-2 minutes, if it will help my strength increase.

Bonnie,

You were doing it right all of this time and didn’t even know it.

Andrew,

Back in those days, I wouldn’t have been able to touch my toes if a $100 bill was on the block.

Brad,

I think that Yoga is a different deal. A lot of people get enjoyment out of it. I don’t think it will help in getting lean, but it certainly helps in learning relaxation techniques and muscle control, etc. I don’t personally enjoy it, but if you like it then go for it.

Jon,

If people enjoy it and it is a “pre-game” ritual, then they should continue to do it. The nice thing is that those of us who dislike it, can skip it with “zero” feeling of guilt.

JE,

I love dodgeball! Late at night in the summer time in downtown Seattle, they play team dodgeball on lit tennis courts. It works well, because the high chain link fences keep the balls on the court. Also…somebody told me that they banned dodgeball from Junior High and High School. Too bad, because it teaches so many lessons that are valuable later in life (well not really…but it was fun to peg the obnoxious kids).

Helder,

Crazy that stretching and being flexible can actually make some injuries more likely to happen. I always forget that English is a second language for you! You write as well as any native English speaking person. Very impressive. I’m jealous, because I’m a one-trick-pony (just English for me).

Bob,

Thanks for the compliments. I really enjoy hearing personal experiences from people like yourself, who have been lifting for a long time. I’ve been lifting in a gym since the age of 18, so it has been almost 22 years for me now (wow time flies). Anyway, pre-existing injuries always require a bit more caution and anything to limit the chance of re-injury is time well spent. Those are pretty heavy good mornings by the way!

Matthias,

Great explanation. Good point that everybody probably has a muscle or two that is tighter than other muscles. I need to get a guest post on soft tissue work, this is a subject I haven’t covered. I love the things you guys add in the comment section…over 1/2 the gold is located after the post.

Gabriella,

I’m always hesitant to talk about Yoga. I know that people get something out of it…I don’t “get it”, but that is just my preference. I don’t like Coutry Music either, but I don’t think it is bad music…just not wired to understand the upside. I don’t think Yoga will make anyone significantly stronger. Stretching may be important for certain activities, but not for the majority of sports.

Jennifer,

Yeah…you will get an even better reaction if you wear some of that 80’s dance wear that the women are wearing. I remember thinking those women were hot. Of course none of them were as hot as the woman I had a huge crush on in those days (Olivia Newton John). Any young boy who saw Grease at a young age those days couldn’t help but fall in love with Olivia Newton John. She was perfect!

Tom,

Keep stretching…just remember that you may not have to spend more than 30 seconds in each stretch. The Law of Diminishing Returns comes into play with stretching. Hopefully you will be able to save a little time now.

Hulbs,

You are a running machine! Is it beautiful in Oz this time of year? I’ve been living in 24 hour fog in Seattle the past week. Can you confirm that the sun hasn’t burned out? I need a report…I’m a bit worried.

Burritokid,

I don’t think stretching will help as much as a light jog or peddle on an exercise bike. Anything to warm up the muscle will help with soreness, once the muscle is sore.

MrBunny,

Thanks a bunch for the seriously nice things you have said about my site. I do work 50-60 hours a week in a “real” job and do this for fun…and hearing these types of comments makes it fun for me. You are eating the way we are suppose to eat as humans. Fruits, veggies, dairy, fats, and meat is the ideal diet. You will feel more energy, get sick less often, look and feel better if you continue to eat this way. There is nothing dangerous to eating this way…what is bad is when people eliminate all carbs…since you are eating a lot of fruit this won’t be an issue. The addition of grains as something that happened when we stopped being “hunters and gathers”. For the majority of our time on this planet, we ate mainly fruits, veggies, and meat…without any of the modern carbs. I still enjoy things like potatoes, rice, and breads…I just feel best when the majority of the time I eat the way you described. Great job on the weight loss, by the way!

Brad,

Yeah…there are cases where stretching for a while will be beneficial. That is hillarious you are required to make the kids to the sit-and-reach test. Do you tell them that you didn’t like it when you were their age? Also…I was by far the worst in this test in Jr. High, but the fastest kid and longest jumper on the track team. A good trade-off in my opinion.

Great Comments. I appreciate the participation!

Rusty

Yavor January 18, 2009 at 7:07 am

Rusty,

I agree with MrBunny. This is one of the coolest sites on the internets 🙂

I also don’t like stretching, but I try to do it because I’m rehabbing my knee from a basketball injury. I read Mike Robertson’s book Bulletproof Knees and stretching (before going to bed for example and NOT before lifting) helps in rehab.

Cheers,

Yavor

MrBunny January 18, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for the reply Rusty, i will make sure i eat even more fruits throughout the day to compensate for the lack of carbs. Besides, two days in a week part of my dinner consist of home made chapati (whole grain) which should help.

I don’t think you realise how much your sites helps people as you are literally giving us the knowledge, inspiration and most importantly the motivation to change our lives and live for a healthier and longer life. In effect you have probably helped saved lives because i know thats how i feel if it was not for this site i would be eating myself to an early grave. I just wish i could repy the favor and seeing how i play the lottery each week i made a promise to myself that if i win i would donate a healthy sum of money to you to help make your life easier as you did for me.

By the way what job do you do as working a 50-60 hour week is a lot, i only do a 45 hour week.

Hulbs January 19, 2009 at 5:25 am

Hey rusty,

yeah it’s hard to get motivated to go to work this time of year in oz! 32c today in canberra where i live and clear skies! nice for running if you go early like 6am or so when its only 10-15c and nice light winds.
i’m taking the 29thJan off to work to spend a day in the sun watching the cricket. (a crazy bat and ball game like baseball but take all day!)

Off topic but speaking of sun and beaches I’m finally getting to South America (Brazil and Argentina) with the wife in Oct09 for about 3 weeks. can’t wait!

Hulbs

SupplementPricing.com January 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

It’s great to hear that I don’t have to do any stretching before lifting, I’ve never liked doing it either. I’ve been doing a warmup set before lifting and found that to work just great for me.

admin January 20, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Yavor,

Injuries suck. I wish you a speedy recovery!

Mr Bunny,

I manage a large suit store in Seattle. Since I’m salary, my company abuses me a bit at times. I am aiming to quit that job and go full-time online some time in Spring or Summer of this year. I could sell advertising on this site and do this soon, but I just don’t want to clutter the look of the site too much. This site is getting a ton of daily visitors now, which is exciting.

Thanks for the kind words. I enjoy helping as many people as possible. It is comments like yours that make this very rewarding.

Hulbs,

I am jealous. Live in Australia, travel to Brazil. Life is good. I hope to go to Costa Rica this spring. I love to travel. I would rather travel than have material goods.

Rusty

Ron January 20, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I thought I’d be selfish for a moment and throw in 2 off-topic questions:

1) Do you think it’s better to do less reps with more weight or more reps with less? Obviously you know that I’ve read the site for a while, so let me rephrase with an example…
Take the exercise of back rows. Better to do 3 reps with 50 LBS or 5 reps with 42.5 (or even 30) LBS?

2) If I’m ONLY trying to lose my belly fat…
I’ve been eating incredibly clean this last month (with the occasional beer exceptions). I’ve been doing the 30 sugar free days challenge (http://olsonnd.com/30-sugar-free-days/). I’ve reduced my workouts to only doing HIIT for 20 minutes followed by 30 minutes of running (3 days per week), alternated with 60 minutes of steady running (2 days per week). Ok, so it’s more like 2-3 days of the former. Either way, do you think this would be the best way to lose that belly fat or should I still incorporate some weight training? I don’t seem to be losing much, if any muscle and I figure I can always add muscle AFTER I get my BF% down (aiming for 6-8%…STILL).

Carrie Tucker January 21, 2009 at 8:15 am

Very interesting information. Don’t think I will be giving stretching before weight lifting much effort in the future. However, physical fitness is a triangle. Strength, endurance, flexibility. If you think that there is no place for flexibility in your fitness plan, you may change your mind as you age.

It’s not stretching that I love, but the orgasmic release I get! I stretch in the morning and in the evening. Feels better every day! Can’t imagine how I could continue working on improving my posture if I didn’t stretch.

Tension will squeeze the life out of you! Relax and stretch to release that tension. Life is more fun when you are flexible! (In more ways than one!)

Yoga is an ancient healing art. If you think it is a waste of time, then your arrogance is in the drivers seat, and you probably don’t want to travel in that direction.

You know what is a waste of time? Staring at the television! Talk about boring! A few minutes of quiet, peaceful, orgasmic stretching, now that is what I call heaven.

Michiel January 21, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Hey Rusty

I don’t know where i need to write this because its not really related to the topic.
When i do incline db presses or other db press variations, i get a weird click or snap in my shoulder like a tendon that moves over a bone. You cant hear it loudly but i feel it and its really annoying. The weird thing is that i dont have any pain at all. I’m already doing rotator cuff exercises, shoulder dislocations and some stretches (not befor the workout offcourse) but it wont go away. Do you know what i can do to fix this?
Greetz

Yavor January 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Rusty,

Thanks, I’m getting better. Foam rolling and stretching seem to work well for knee rehabing.

Ron,

3’s and 5s are pretty much the same. Exercises that fatigue you fast like power cleans are better for 1-3 reps. Rows work better with 5s I think because you don’t cheat so much (when rowing heavy people tend to use their legs too much instead of back).

As far as leaning down – do some form of resistance training to maintain muscles. Pushups and pullups for example are enough to preserve your muscles.

Yavor

Yavor January 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I am doing handstand pushups and doorframe pullups in my bedroom and surfing the net in between sets. So anyway, those comments are on fire here.

Carrie,

orgasmic stretching, you crack me up sweetie 🙂 But I know what you mean. Sorta. Rusty just hints that pre-workout stretching sucks. It makes your muscles more relaxed, hence weaker. Now, what you are referring to as beneficial is a whole different game from the passive stretching of forcing your muscles to elongate. Range of motion and active flexibility (the ability to stretch using the force of your muscles only) are good for you no doubt.

Michiel,

seems like you have a bad shoulder. To avoid the cracking, hold your upperarms at 45-50 degrees to your torso and NOT straight out to the sides (90 degrees) when doing bench presses.

Yavor

Michiel January 22, 2009 at 3:18 am

Thanks for the comment Yavor.
The strange thing is that i’m allready holding my arm at a 45-50 degrees. I’m focusssing alot on technique and really push those shoulder blades into the bench. I hope it goes away with time but i’m afraid that i might be damaging cartilage or a tendon.

Yavor January 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

Michiel,

it ain’t worth it to screw your shoulder for life because of an exercise. Find a way to do it pain free or switch to a different one.

Tom January 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Hey Rusty,

This was on Yahoo.com today I guess everyone else is always a few steps behind you on information these days…

MYTH: Stretching before exercise prevents injuries and enhances performance.
REALITY: Researchers are still scratching their head over this one, since studies have yet to show conclusively that limbering up has any effect on staving off strains and other injuries. But they do know that stretching regularly can make bending, reaching, twisting and lifting easier. Best move: Save your stretching for post-exercise, when muscles are warm.

Ron January 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Yavor,
Thanks for the info. I’ve pretty much been trying to only stick to cardio and maybe some bodyweight exercises lately anyway- mainly because the girlfriend can’t stand how long we’re at the gym and starts to nag me, but even then I seem to take a long time since my running alone takes me about an hour. Hence my doing nothing but running lately.

The other day I was here without her so I took my time and got in 2 exercises for chest and 2 for back before doing my HIIT/steady jogging. I’ve discovered that I really like doing that stuff on the track much better than on a treadmill. Don’t know if it’s any better for me or not, but I get the feeling that people look at me like I’m nuts, which really amuses me. 🙂 It’s also nice to run on the track since the scenery constantly changes, even if only a slightly.

Yavor January 23, 2009 at 2:17 am

Ron,

If you only do 1-2 exercises for your muscles, you need to do the most complex ones only. For example – dips, pushups or military press plus pullups or chinups.

Either cover the whole body with lots of exercises, splits style, OR do 1-3 that train your whole body like the ones I mentioned.

Steve P January 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Hi Rusty,

A friend of mine has completed 2 marathons and numerous shorter races over the years. He stretches before every run, and even stops after running for five minutes to stretch AGAIN?? before continueing to run. This tiresome (and irritating if you run with him) regime has not stopped him tearing both calves so frequently he will limp for life or prevented knee injuries. Total waste of time, I just do some runners stretches from various positions for literally a couple of minutes immediately after my run and thats it. I have never torn a muscle or had an injury which has stopped my running. I always felt stretching legs before a run could weaken them, which in turn could lead to injury don;t you think..? Cheers, Steve P.

new_me January 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

First post here….am reading your site from the Canadian prairies…. -30C today, with wind! I run indoors!

I recently added your site to my desk top right beside the very few other sites that I deem to be of high enough quality to check regularly. I stumbled into your blog when I was looking for solutions to my recent lower back injury. THANKS A WHOLE LOT FOR PUTTING THESE TRUTHS OUT HERE FOR US! No more crunches for me! Phew, I’m relieved to have sound advice to support me in that decision! My back spontaneously healed after only a week of great discomfort and after giving up any spine bending movements.

Anyways, as far as stretching goes….I’ve always hated it because it seemed to be so pointless. I am very driven and goal oriented and I’ve got to be spending my time productively or else I get grumpy. However….I DO stretch AFTER I run. I find this helps to prevent stiffness. I only spend about 1 minute stretching out my hams, quads and calves a few times in the first hour after I run. It feels good. Pre-run ‘stretching’ is covered in the first minutes of warm-up, just going through the motions of the upcoming exertion.

I’ve changed my running routine to your recommended HIIT combined with steady state cardio. I’ve got about 20 more pounds to lose and I’m going to tackle it this way. The first 50 pounds dropped by similar means, but much slower. I can tell that your way is going to work, it’s intense, but there is NO WAY I’m going to mess up by eating garbage after a work-out like that!

Thanks for sharing so much goodness!!

Kprice February 2, 2009 at 2:54 am

Rusty,

You are so freakin’ funny! I hate stretching too so I never did it. I don’t run as much anymore but all through high school I ran pretty much everyday. I think warming up is good enough, like a slow jog. I did like to stretch after my workout, when my muscles were a little tense, but that’s about it. Thanks for the post, it confirmed all my theories about stretching. And it was very informative and entertaining as well!

Glenn a.k.a. sexybeast February 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Hey Rusty,

God love you for posting this! lol I hate stretching sooooo much. I haven’t been working out very long, and I haven’t been stretching before I do so, so I was very pleased to see the test results you have posted here. You have a great site here – I got the link from fitconnect.com. My wife and I just joined that site recently. Also, I totally agree with what you’re saying about giant grotesque muscles compared to the “hollywood look”. That’s what i want to accomplish and I will be checking your site often for your advice and knowledge. Thanks bro

still skinny fat June 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Not only do I hate stretching, it seemed to irritate my joints. I would stretch after some of my weight workouts. Static stretch for about 30 seconds, 3 times for each muscle group, 2-3 times a week. I had been plagued by shoulder pain that always seemed to reappear once I hit a certain weight in the bench press. I stopped stretching my shoulder to see what would happen; no pain since!

Same deal with squats. When squatting regularly (not even full squats) my knees used to bother me in the morning and would go out when I walked up stairs. Stopped stretching my hamstrings and quads; no pain since!

By the way, I always do a general warmup (bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc) and one or two warmup sets with light weight before my work sets.

This was all before I read this article, but I’m glad to see someone else thinks stretching isn’t so great. It’s sad that so many armchair trainers regurgitate the outdated recommendations on stretching…and many other topics 🙁

Travelroller.com August 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

me too love yoga, by the way thank you for this great article

Hiram September 24, 2009 at 3:42 pm

You’re correct – stretching can actually weaken muscles and can lead to injury if you’re getting ready to use your muscles “explosively,” like lifting weights or sprinting.

However, note that “stretching” is not the same as “warming up” although many people use the two terms interchangeably. Many people also use stretching as part of their warm-up, which may or may not be appropriate depending on what you’re warming up for.

The best warm-up is to lightly perform the general actions of the exercise you plan to do. If it’s a run, then lightly run in place for a minute or two to warm up. If it’s weight lifting, then do some arm and/or trunk rotations to get the muscles limbered up and the blood flowing.

Most experts will tell you to leave any kind of intense stretching for AFTER your exercise, not before. At that point, your muscles are already warm so the stretching will be much more effective.

Great article, Rusty. Thanks for bringing attention to this important (and often misunderstood) topic.

Hiram
The Balanced Health Guy
Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (NESTA)

Anna @ pathtofatloss September 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Hi Rusty, I never stretch before a workout although I do focus a lot on foam rolling and active stretching (from Relax into Stretch by Pavel) after my workouts or on my off days. I do the active stretching with my bootcampers a lot and they love it. I’m not a big fan of passive stretching because I never saw any benefits from it even when I did it regularly.

My suggestion for people who are reading this post and comments is to stick to foam rolling. You will be in much better shape if you do so.

Hiram February 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Hey Rusty. I think a lot of people use the term “stretch” and “warm up” interchangeably. You should always warm up before exercising, especially if you plan to put a big load on your muscles, although that doesn’t necessarily mean stretching. In fact, stretching before a hard routine can actually increase your chances of injury.

A good warm-up is usually a couple of light reps of whatever you were planning to do anyways. For example, if you’re going to lift weights and work on biceps, a good warm-up is to simply go through the exact range of motion with very light weights. Once you’ve done this a couple of times, then you can load up.

The only way to clear things up is not to mix or misuse the terms. Unfortunately, you even hear a lot of fitness “guru’s” using the terms incorrectly….

Hiram

Tim February 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Depends.

I do pilates (in addition to kettles, and 50km of cycling a day) and I have never felt better. Looser muscle fibres and the pilates regime has balanced me up.

If you have some biomechanical or physiological imbalances, stretching certainly can help (as well as weights to balance the imbalance).

I also reckons having flexible muscles helps older people.

Dai February 20, 2010 at 8:39 am

This is one of the most power full reasons I’ve seen for stretching is staying flexible when getting older. Check out the link to Dick Hartzell 69 Stretching with FlexBand. I’ve recently started doing some stretching with flex bands after my workouts and all I can say it is working for me.

http://www.flexbandonline.com/dick-hartzell-69-stretching-with-flexband.htm

Sandra May 22, 2010 at 6:00 am

Wow, I knew it!!!! And all this time… You are amazingly insightful and relative.

Dave May 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hey Rusty..
I’m a big fan of HIIT, and like to sprint, about 2 weeks ago i started running but couldn’t keep it up for more than a week(alternate days) cause my hamstrings were sore as hell, i know i didn’t pull a muscle but they still hurt, I’m wondering if i should or shouldn’t be stretching before my workout…hate stretching, such a waste of time, but will it prevent injury???

Ed May 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Rusty you may be on to something, I stretch/warm-up before training and usually run out of gas near the end of my workouts.

I think I will stick to a light warm up without the stretching and see how I perform.

Tom - Your Fitness Quest November 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

Rusty, Your comments about fitness testing in school remind me that the only thing worse than stretching was the pull up test. None of the tall skinny guys in grade school like myself could do them but the short guys just cranked them out.

I have horrible flexibility, but I like to stretch as a relaxation technique, not to improve performance. For me it creates better body awareness, kind of like yoga or meditating. I’ve seen the studies that show diminished strength if you stretch before exercise, so I’m still surprised when I see so many college and professional athletes stretching prior to their event.

Mike(Team N.R.G) November 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Stretching and flexibility is very important, and always forgotten by many people training.
Personally my workouts and bootcamps i teach, start with 5 mins gentle static stretching, then 5 – 10mins of mobility exercises to get ready for hard exercising before moving onto core training.
When teaching martial arts use same approach but maybe longer with the mobility exercises befores major kicking moves, always finish workouts with 10-15mins developmental stretching as the muscles are more productive in developing flexibility at this point.

Jeff - Get This Ripped November 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm

There is was another study done by the University of Hawaii-Manoa. They did a study with 1543 people who ran in the Honolulu Marathon. This study linked pre-workout stretching with a higher risk of injury. In this study, the runners that stretched prior to running had a 33% higher risk of injury compared to the runners that didn’t stretch.

Stretching after a workout has shown to help your muscles recover faster.

oolala53 December 9, 2010 at 2:25 am

I’m surprised that you keep talking about stretching as a warm up. I have not heard anyone recommend that for years. However, after the muscles are warm, stretching just makes them feel better afterwards. I don’t know about the injury issue or if the studies examined stretching after the period of intensity. I just know that my body feels much better if I end with a stretch of the areas I worked.

JoetheCab December 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Who care’s about the stretching!

I’ve just found Solid Gold, it’s the best!

We had Pans People over here in the UK. But I don’t think they could compete with the US as usual.

Solid Gold Baby!

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