Stretching, truths and myths!

We have all been told that flexibility is important, from being able to touch your toes to getting into that near-impossible pose in a yoga class.  Although there is no question that a degree of flexibility is healthy, here are some myths and truths that are worth knowing about.

  1. Stretching reduces strength.  This is most certainly a myth and there is little evidence that a reduction in strength occurs when flexibility increases.  In some cases improved flexibility can actually increase force output as the muscle is able to produce force over a greater range!
  2. Stretching reduces risk of injuryMYTH! Contrary to popular belief there are now countless studies demonstrating absolutely no correlation between stretching and injury incidence.  Accuracy of movement however is correlated to injury.  If in order to move accurately you require greater flexibility then this can help but it will never trump good movement patterns.
  3. Stretching eases muscle tension.  This is true, tension in a muscle as a result of physical exertion or sustained low level activity (think posture!) can be relieved with stretching.
  4. All athletes need flexibility.  Personally I believe this is to be a myth.  Although some sports such as gymnastics and dance rely more on flexibility – others don’t.  An elite level sprinter for example would require a degree of muscle stiffness to produce the elastic energy needed for forward momentum.

There is certainly a lot of benefit in stretching, particularly to help ease tired and tight muscles that have been worked hard in sport, gym or daily life.  For many people having adequate flexibility ensures that you are able to move in a safe and accurate manner.  Remember that if you are going to dedicate time to stretching then make sure it is for the right reasons.