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Myths and Realities

Stretching has been promoted for decades as a way to increase strength, relieve pain, increase range of motion and prevent future injuries. There's just one problem. The medical studies only backup two of those claims.

MYTH 1 - INCREASED STRENGTH: If you stretch just before a weight training session, stretching can actually reduce the strength and power you can put into the workout. To get the most from your workouts, consider stretching after exercising. However, there are no studies showing that stretching before an aerobic or cardio session will have any detrimental effects.

MYTH 2 - PREVENT FUTURE INJURIES: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reviewed more than 350 studies on stretching. They found no evidence to suggest that athletes who stretch could reduce the risk of injury.

This does NOT necessarily mean you should not stretch. It merely suggests you should concentrate on stretching to help improve the flow of blood to muscles, to relieve pain and increase flexibility.

How long you hold a stretch is hotly debated. One of the arguments is that stretches shouldn't be held for more than 2 seconds because, after 2 or 3 seconds, a stretched muscle will tighten or "snap-back" to protect itself from tearing. Theoretically, over time the muscles can become injured, tight and painful.

Most stretching books say you should hold each stretch for a minimum of 10 to 30 seconds, or until the tension in a muscle group is relaxed. This timing can vary from day to day.

Medical studies take a middle ground. In case after case they show that the increases in range of motion did not change between subjects who stretched for 15, 45 or 120 seconds at a time.

After reviewing studies of the various types of stretching (January 2007), we realized something amazing. Every form of stretching (except slow movement stretching) provided about the same gains in flexibility and increases in range of motion.

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For more details on specific stretches, Click Here to visit the STRETCHES section of the WeBeFit website.

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Updated 3/29/2011