Getting ready to suck. photo:

Ever been standing in KT line watching some uber-cool-local-brosef stretching it out in front of everyone, plainly waving his flag of radness?  Yeah, well, he’s a chump.  He was actively lowering his skiing/riding performance for the day.

We all grew up being told to stretch before being active.  Specifically, we were told to do static stretches, where you stretch and hold a position for 30 seconds or more.  All that stretching was making you suck.

Static stretching before exercise has been credited with less responsive and weakened muscles for 30 minutes after stretching.  A University of Nevada study in 2008 has showed that pre-exercise static stretching caused athletes to have less force in their legs than athletes who didn’t stretch at all.  Other studies have shown this kinda stretching can create a 30% decrease in muscle strength.

“The basic science and clinical evidence today suggests that stretching before exercise is more likely to cause injury than to prevent it.” – Ian Shrier, M.D., former president of the Canadian Society of Sports Medicine.



STRAIGHT-LEG MARCH (for the hamstrings and gluteus muscles)Kick one leg straight out in front of you, with your toes flexed toward the sky. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes. Drop the leg and repeat with the opposite limbs. Continue the sequence for at least six or seven repetitions. - image/text: emily cooper/


Best case scenario with static stretching before activity has been called “not detrimental.”  Which doesn’t sound all that great.

“If the time you spend stretching causes you to lose time from something else–more running, strength training, or stability exercises–then you might be better off spending the time on that something else.” – Dr. Stephen Thacker, author of CDC report on stretching.

In a large study of over 100 studies, it was found that static stretching for over 60 seconds “impeded athletic performance,” stretching for less than 30 seconds was “not detrimental.”

So, what is the right thing to do before exercising?  Warm up a bit, but not too much and do dynamic stretches.

The University of Calgary just did a study that shows warming up less is more.  Warming up is the real key to a pre-exercise routine, but when it’s done for too long, you’re actually fatiguing your muscles and lowering performance at your main exercise.  A short warm up is going to be beneficiary and should be just long enough to get your body warm & ready.

SCORPION (for the lower back, hip flexors and gluteus muscles) Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm, then kick your left foot toward your right arm. Since this is an advanced exercise, begin slowly, and repeat up to 12 times. image/text: emily cooper/

Dynamic stretching (moving thru ranges of motions while stretching) is the thing to do now, according to many of the latest studies.  In a recent study at Oregon State University, athletes who’d done dynamic stretching improved reactive jump heights while athletes who’d performed static stretching did not.

“Stretching does increase flexibility; the highest-quality studies indicate that this increased flexibility doesn’t prevent injuries; few athletes need extreme flexibility to perform their best (perhaps just gymnasts and figure skaters); and more injuries would be prevented by better warmups, by strength training, and by balance exercises, than by stretching.” – Dr. Stephen Thacker, author of CDC report on stretching.


Static stretching is still okay post-exercise.  It’s reported that post-exercise stretching is still a benefit as it:  removes muscle tension, increased muscle relaxation, restoration of muscle length, removes lactic acid (waste byproducts), and decrease soreness.

HANDWALKS (for the shoulders, core muscles and hamstrings) Stand straight, with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. ‘‘Walk’’ your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands, then walk your hands forward again. Repeat five or six times. image/text: emily cooper/


– Don’t perform static stretches over 30 seconds before exercise (or just avoid ‘em)

– Stay away from static stretching over 60 seconds all together

-Start trying dynamic stretches before exercise

– Static stretching after exercise is still good

– Keep warm ups short and effective.  Get ready and warm, not fatigued

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