A myth is defined by Webster as : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon an untrue explanation for a natural phenomenon. Stretching before exercise to reduce injury is one of those myths.
Historically, it has been generally accepted that stretching decreases the risk of injury. This myth is based on the idea that pre-exercise stretching reduces the risk of injury through improvements in range of motion and blood flow, better proprioception and decreased stiffness in the muscle (Fredette, 2001).
The fact that authority figures (e.g., coaches and sports medicine doctors) have long practiced pre-exercise stretching for lowering injury risk is likely the reason it has been so widely accepted as standard practice. However, researchers began to more closely scrutinize the evidence supporting this. Recently, Witvrouw and colleagues (2004) concluded that pre-exercise stretching has no beneficial effect on injury prevention for activities such as cycling, jogging and swimming. Also, in a current review (McHugh and Cosgrave, 2010), the general consensus was that stretching in addition to aerobic warm-up does not affect the incidence of overuse injuries.
Does this mean stretching has no impact on risk of injury? Absolutely not! In fact, it has been reported that stretching at other times, including post exercise and in the evening, can reduce injury risk. At Ellipse Fitness we do what we call a RAMP prior to our workouts. RAMP stands for Range of Motion, Activation and Movement Preparation. We work on movement patterns that we’ll be doing that day in effort to prepare the body for the workout. We also suggest foam rolling prior to a workout, however we strongly suggest, in the essence of not wasting time, that our members save the stretches for AFTER their workout, when the muscles are warmed up and ready for the TRUE BENEFIT that stretching provides.
The Bottom Line: Stretching before exercise DOES NOT reduce the risk of injury