Most runners stretch before and/or after running. Generally, runners stretch to ‘loosen up’ and help protect against injury, or maybe to help boost performance. However, stretching is more closely tied with causing injury or exacerbating a current injury!
What is more, a good reason to ditch your pre-run stretching routines is that stretching before running was found to reduce running performance.
Why Ditch Your Pre-Run Stretching Routines
Reduced performance seems to be a side-effect of pre-run static stretching.
However, Lowery et al. (2014) reported that endurance runners are at risk of poor running performance if they perform static stretches prior to a long distance run.
- The static stretching protocol involved a series of 6-lower body stretches for three 30-second repetitions.
The researchers then compared the time to complete a 1-mile run in the stretching and non-stretching conditions.
- During the 1-mile run, subjects ran as fast as possible at a set incline of 5%.
The researchers found that the non-stretching condition had a faster run-time to completion compared to the static stretching condition. The researchers also found a spike in muscle activity in the static stretching condition whereby increased muscle activity is indicative of increased energy demands.
The Take Home Message
Once thought of as a performance enhancer, static stretching is now believed to decrease running performance and the present study is not the first to reveal this. Other studies have found that pre-run static stretching compromised performance in long distance runners.
So why do coaches still recommend pre-run static stretching? Because only in the past few years has rigorous research validated pre-run static stretching as the wrong therapeutic approach. At the same time, researchers are beginning to explore the idea that increased muscle stiffness, not increased muscle flexibility, accelerates performance in running.
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Lowery et al. Effects of static stretching on 1-mile uphill run performance. J Strength Cond, 2014; 28(1):161-67.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.