Why Runners Should Ditch Their Stretching Routines

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.

Stretching Routines for Running

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 researchers compared the effects of a 5-minute treadmill warm-up vs static stretching on running performance variables, such as ground contact time and muscle activity.

  • 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.

Even though foot strike was undefined in the study, the static stretching condition showed longer ground contact time compared to the non-stretching condition.

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.

More From Run Forefoot:

Running Without Shoes – Running barefoot linked to less injuries and biomechanical improvements.

How to Run Injury Free – An overview of the health benefits of forefoot running.

Leg Injury From Running– A list of common injuries of the leg caused by heel strike running.

Running Pose Method – Tips from Pose Running to help you refine your forefoot running mechanics.

Best Minimal Running Shoes – A review of popular barefoot like running shoes for forefoot runners.


References:

Lowery et al. Effects of static stretching on 1-mile uphill run performance. J Strength Cond, 2014; 28(1):161-67.

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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