I thought I was done with the topic “Isn’t Stretching Supposed to Prevent Injuries?” but I recently had an interesting conversation on the topic with Charles Brown. Not only has Charles been a fitness trainer and competitive endurance athlete for over 20 years, but he also subscribes to the Grapplearts.com newsletter!
Below I am posting what Charles said – I think it is a valuable contribution to the discussion of stretching, grappling and martial arts:
“I noted with interest your recent comments about stretching. The recent proliferation of articles about the dangers of pre-event stretching cite nothing new. The true risks and benefits of stretching have not changed in decades. What the recent research achieves is to highlight the misunderstanding about how and when to stretch, which have existed for decades.”
“The importance of stretching lies in its proven ability to prevent injury by maintaining range of motion, not as a quick-fix approach to preventing acute injury during an event. Stretching cold muscles (the typical pre-event stretch) has always had a tendency to increase injury. The problem with pre-event stretching lies not in the stretching itself, but in the failure to warm-up adequately.”
“A solid warm-up requires a minimum of 8-10 minutes. There is no shortcut. Think about the last time you started running at a very easy pace. At some point, early in the run, you probably noticed a sudden onrush of perspiration. I’d be willing to bet that event occurred about 8-10 minutes into your run. That is when you were warmed up. Stretching after that point, done sensibly, would represent absolutely no risk of injury. In fact, the warm-up itself will do more to prevent acute injury than any stretching.”
“The role stretching plays in preventing chronic and acute injury lies in its increasing (or preventing the decrease of) range of motion of a particular joint or series of joints. In order to accomplish this, however, stretches must be conducted with thoroughly warmed-up muscles, and must be held for 30-60 seconds. The typical 15-20 second stretch has absolutely no benefit in improving, or even maintaining, flexibility. In other words, stretching need not occur in direct proximity to your event in order to prevent injury.”
“So, what can athletes, including martial artists, gain from all this?
- Warm-up all working muscles thoroughly before training or competition with at least 8-10 minutes of continuous, very low intensity activity.
- Engage in a regular routine of static stretches held for 30-60 seconds.
- Stretch before or after an event, but ALWAYS after a warm-up.”
Thanks to Charles for his thoughts and insights!