Are Traditional Stretching Methods Actually Harmful?

By Beacon Staff

My fellow reporter Dan Testa showed me a New York Times article about several new studies that are claiming to disprove the traditional method of stretching in athletics. You can see the article by clicking here. Like me, you were most likely taught to hold certain stretching positions, like touching your toes, for a fixed period of time, maybe 10 to 20 seconds, before engaging in athletic activity. According to these studies, however, that kind of “static” stretching is not only ineffective, it’s actually detrimental to your muscles and makes you weaker.

The studies are definitely something for athletes to take into account, but also anybody who is active. Warming up to make sure you’re not exercising on cold, tight muscles is essential. But apparently we need to figure out exactly the proper way to warm up.

The researchers in this article recommend an aerobic warm-up, such as a jog, immediately followed by a series of “dynamic” stretches, which include somewhat strenuous leg kicks that by traditional definition would probably be called exercises instead of stretches. A good warm-up followed by the dynamic stretches is the best way prevent injuries, the article states.

Young athletes should especially take note. Go to any children’s athletic event and you see kids holding stretches, sometimes bobbing yet remaining in the same position. That’s how I always learned to stretch. Touch my toes and hold it for 10 seconds. Pull my arm behind my head and hold it for 15 seconds. The times haven’t changed.

Of course, a new series of studies could emerge to “disprove” these, followed by another so-called groundbreaking study that claims to disprove those. Such is the nature of scientific progress. But even if you’re skeptical of such studies that supposedly shoot down everything you’ve grown to accept as correct, you have to concede that lengthy scientific research did go into these reports and they are surely something to think about. It could be the key to preventing an injury, or several.

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