Marlene Cimons wrote for The Washington Post that from the 1960s to the late 1990s, fitness professionals firmly believed that static stretching was a useful adjunct before exercise, warming up the muscles and, in doing so, preventing injury.
Later, however, research suggested the opposite was true — that it caused muscle fatigue and slower sprinting times in elite athletes.
This prompted many of them to abandon it for “dynamic” stretching, which looks more like real exercise.
Today, many experts think a combination of both before a vigorous workout or competition is the best approach.
At the cellular level
To understand the controversy, it’s important to know what happens at the muscles’ cellular level during static stretching.
“Our muscles are made of thousands of muscle spindles — like hairs in a ponytail — that give the muscle cell the ability to stretch and contract by sliding past each other in a coordinated fashion,” said Michael Jonesco, an assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “Static stretching pulls on the cell to the max, and can cause some stretch injury that takes time to recover, and can, therefore, cause a temporary drop in performance.” Read more