Stretching, especially the static reach-and-hold kind we've previously suggested was all wrong, had virtually no effect on injury prevention in a study of 1400 runners, ages 13 to over 60. Not only that, but stretching could actually hurt your workout.
A new study from USA Track and Field was the result of a fairly huge undertaking, splitting up 1400 participants into stretch and no-stretch groups. The stretchers had to hold basic poses for 20 seconds that exercised their calf, hamstring and quadriceps muscles. The results?
About 16 percent of the group that didn't stretch were hobbled badly enough to miss training for at least a week (the researchers' definition of a running injury), while about 16 percent of the group that did stretch were laid up for at least a week. The percentages, in other words, were virtually identical. Static stretching had proved to be a wash in terms of protecting against injury. It "neither prevented nor induced injury when compared with not stretching before running," the study's authors concluded
Static stretching, in fact, could make your muscles tighter before a run, as your body adapts to your manual attempts to lengthen them.
Then again, the New York Times' follow-ups with researchers suggest that if you're currently stretching before a workout, you shouldn't quit cold turkey. Changing up a habitual physical habit, especially before an activity as injury-prone as running, could be tempting fate. Any changes to your routine, including a switch to the "dynamic stretching" explained in the full write-up, should be undertaken gradually.
Where do you fall in the seemingly endless stretch or no-stretch exercisers' debate? What stretches have worked for your own routine?