The Stretching Controversy

Stretching has been a subject of increased controversy over the past decade. The pros and cons have been debated as more research has been published and the tradition of stretching before and after exercise has been challenged.

To summarise the stretching research:

  • Stretching DOES increase flexibility if
    • Held for at least 15-30s, but no need to hold for longer
    • Performed routinely – 3-7 days per week
  • It MAY increase flexibility more effectively if performed as “hold-relax” stretching where the athlete contracts their muscles before or during the stretch
  • Stretching alone does not reduce the risk of injury (many other factors are involved)
  • If increased flexibility is needed for a specific sport, then the athlete must stretch regularly
  • It causes muscles to temporarily weaken when running or jumping afterwards
  • Stretching can cause runners to feel like they are exerting themselves more than usual compared to when they haven’t stretched.
Sustained passive stretching

Sustained passive stretching

It should be noted that the research has studied the AVERAGE response to stretching for various groups in different studies. This has included recreational runners to professional soccer players. There will always be some individual variation that accounts for those people that enjoy stretching or feel the need to stretch.

When an athlete stretches and improves their flexibility, it is not known if they have truly lengthened our muscle tissue or if their brain has simply become used to the stretching position and the athlete learns to tolerate the stretch better.


written by Garett Van Oirschott



Thacker et al. (2004). Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Page (2012). International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.