Do Not Stretch! 10 Reasons Not to Stretch

Here’s some fun reasons not to stretch; some more serious than others. If you’re overly sensitive about stretching, (noted in #2), you can catch-up on the Sock Doc “Stop Stretching!” – or continue to stretch.

  1. Stretching is exercise for the muscles like sea water is hydration for the body. When you’re desperate for relief, it feels so right but it’s just so wrong.
  2. All athletes, especially runners, are so passionate about stretching. They defend it like their political association, religion, or family. I think many of them may have pictures of their kids in their wallets doing all types of cool stretches that they show their coworkers every day at the water cooler. “Look at my little one sitting on both his elbows!”
  3. Runners will follow any trend they think will make them run faster. Whether it’s a new supplement, pair of socks, pair or shoes, custom orthotics, or stretching. They’re the first in line for Kool-Aid.
  4. Stretching is a conditioned behavior, not one we are innately born with. I see my kids run, jump, climb, throw things, and carry objects of all sizes. They move well, and efficiently. I’ve never seen them stretch. Their developing nervous systems know better.
  5. The day I see my dog holding a static stretch is the day I’ll start stretching too.
  6. Flexibility is a reflection of overall health and fitness. Stretching does absolutely nothing for health or fitness. It’s not exercise. It’s not a warm-up or a cool-down. And it definitely doesn’t substitute for restful sleep or a wholesome diet which will lead to natural flexibility.
  7. Yoga is not stretching. Stretching is not yoga. Enough of that claim.
  8. Make sure you stretch if you want to weaken muscles, promote injuries, decrease performance, delay tissue healing, and have absolutely way too much free time.
  9. Stretching reduces injuries and improves endurance performance just like certain shoes will make you run or jump faster. Neither claim is true.
  10. I enjoy watching runners stretch. They must stretch because they think they will run faster. I bet they believe in Sasquatch too.

Comments

  1. Wooky-woo says:

    My yoga stretches things…and it has kept me running for 40 years. Can’t be wrong. Dynamic stretching has kept me going too. When I am stiff and sore getting out of my bed in the a.m. (talk to me when you are almost 60-and have been running for over 40 years) it’s what has kept me going. And it just plain feels good.
    I started running in 1971-so was handing out the kool aid for most-and have never jumped on any “trend” or “fad”-kinda like the latest one called “minimalist” footwear that people over 150 and who pronate should never wear? WHO is promoting the kool-aid now? HAHAHAHHA!

    • At Sock Doc we don’t use age as an excuse. There’s just more accumulated time for health problems to occur. You don’t just need to stretch because you’re “old”. Dynamic stretching is fine; though I don’t think it should be called stretching – it’s natural movement.

      It’s great to hear you’ve been running strong for 40 years!

  2. So….no stretching at all?
    Dogs and cats do it, there’s gotta be SOMETHING good to it….part of it is innate behavior

    • I get this question all the time – please read the Stop Stretching! post; it’s addressed in the first paragraph and more throughout the article. Thanks.

  3. You refer to runners and children a lot, but what about those who have been in accidents, injured themselves somehow, or do things our bodies weren’t designed for, such as sitting in an office chair at a computer for a job? I won’t disagree that it is optimal to simply use our bodies as they were intended to be used (movement and changing positions with a variety of movements and thereby activating a good combination of muscle tissue), however I will say that we don’t live in that simple world unfortunately. There are many people who have “confused” muscle fibers that need to be reminded of the length they should be so the body is balanced. So, on that note I would agree that over stretching or stretching the wrong muscle is detrimental and can result in imbalance, and therefore injury (as can having a muscle that is too restricted by myofascial tissue that needs to be stretched/lengthened to bring body back to a healthy balance). In addition, dynamic stretching or PNF are likely the best choice for most, but every body has a different circumstance.

    • Soc-dock… By the way, I did read your entire article (this page) but did not notice the link above for “stop stretching” article. I am reading on my phone and that is probably why. I did write this comment above before I found the link; just thought you might like to know the order I did things, and that your other article us great! I can see that this one was really just for your own entertainment (and maybe a few others…. ) It sure did catch some attention didn’t it? Maybe you could try to more ‘loudly’ convincing others to read the other post first before they get their panties in a twist :) Have a great day!

      • Thanks Tyffani. I think a lot of people are missing that because they’re too busy stretching, and they’re all serious about stretching. That’s why I wrote #2 on the list, just for them.

  4. This is a joke right?

  5. This is comlpetely ridiculous. The only reason you think stretching is bad for you is because nobody ever taught you the proper way to do it. Popular myths recommend stretching from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, which is absolutely WRONG, damaging and unhealthy for your muscles. The correct way to stretch ALL muscles in the body is with dynamic stretches, holding no longer than 2 seconds per rep. Once you get to the end of the stretch, hold 2 seconds, release completely, repeat for 5-20 reps. This way, you are lengthening the muscle, restoring muscle memory (“this is how long you are, this is how short you are”; the rhythmic 2 second stretch sets the muscle memory) and normally provides immediate relief from pain, strain, or tightness. As a Licensed Massage Therapist specializing in Muscle Release Therapy and Injury Therapy, I have had 99% success with this method of stretching. (the 1% is due to bone structure or calcium deposits preventing a full range of motion for the stretch – by then, its already too late..)

    • Hi Jessica, I have my bodywork clients do similar movement exercises as you, and call them as such. I would not call that stretching. Most clients think of stretching as a long hold. You are doing a great job by helping your clients to re-educate their soft-tissue. And I’d say that is the point that is being made here. It’s a Neuromuscular Re-education via movement. If a muscle is tight, it is already in a holding pattern. Movement breaks the cycle.

  6. Why would you start this conversation by showing a picture of a person hyper extending his torso? Later in life this person will have trouble simply because of the hyper extending they have done to themselves.
    And since stretching is not worth the effort, what do you suggest then for muscles that are atrophied from non stretching or non movement? Any kind of movement is beneficial to circulation, even stretching, although most people use the term to broadly. Stretching muscles per se, can cause problems if hyper extension is included in this stretch, but simple “stretching” or movement would seem to improve an other wise tense muscle. Too much play on words and what someone’s version of what is truly meant by their words can cause unintended confusion.

  7. This is supposed to be legitimate? These aren’t even “reasons”… Where is the research?! There is plenty to show the benefits, and actually the exact opposite of pretty much every “reason.” This is a disgrace.

  8. What is “disgraceful” and “ridiculous” is that none of you could have actually read the “Stop Stretching!” post as I mention right from the start. I’m happy to address your comments there, after you do so, as I have addressed several others. And there’s even some research there. Because we all know that without strong scientific research nothing else matters. (sarcasm) I’m gonna go take my daily aspirin since it’s researched to be very beneficial to my heart. (even more sarcasm)

  9. Ginny Ross says:

    What a pathetic attempt at an argument for or against stretching!

    • This list is not an attempt or argument against, or specifically for stretching. Please read the full post before you use words like pathetic on this site.

  10. I just read most of your article – and will finish it later as I have time – and you have some interesting material. My first response to that is. For everyone to fully research all sides of the argument and make the choice that’s right for you. I am a Registered Massage Therapist in Ontario. In my Practice see daily the advantages of keeping muscles in a healthy mid-range ROM. What we do is address fibrosis, adhesion and muscle shortening through ROM movements, (correct) deep tissue work, capsular restriction, muscle imbalance and fascial restriction and imbalance. I refer also to an excellent yoga instructor and Pilates instructor, Physios, Osteos, personal trainers,Chiros, and also do a great deal of breathing work to address the mind-body stress connection. Each case is unique. Length and strength are equally important, in my experience, as equally tight muscles will compress and restrict joints.

    Regarding the responses you’re getting, perhaps you might want to consider being rude and offensive to your readership, and not show such contempt for differing opinions and people at various points on their journey to health and wellness.

    • Chris, thanks for your comment. Sorry if you feel I’m being rude to these comments. I don’t need to approve the ones I don’t like or even respond if I don’t choose to, but I do for all. I feel I answer every reader’s question and comment in a fair manner regardless of their opinion on stretching, orthotics, or any other perhaps controversial subject I have here on this website, as well as several others I write for. But when readers decided to say things such as “disgraceful, ridiculous, and pathetic” and then comment that dynamic stretching is fine and I need to show some research (both of which I note rather thoroughly) – well, they never read the full article and jumped to conclusions. Stating a fact that they’re commenting harshly on something they haven’t read is not offensive or rude.

  11. Megan Zetter says:

    I can see how someone who just happened upon this list and did not take the time to read the “Stop stretching” article, may think this is a bunch of unfounded bologna. However, many valid physiological points are made within the article. You cannot deny what the body inherently does and Sockdoc clearly explains it. I highly recommend you take the time to read it.

  12. You must keep space in the spine, hence, buldges etc…I agree with the person that said we don’t use our bodies as we should. Also, I work at a medical massage clinic and see many people that need to stretch, along with myself…so, balance. We live in a lazy society, remember??

    • Space in the spine? You cannot stretch your spine (bones) in such a manner to keep “space” there. There are traction and VAX-D machines help to decompress the spine when there is a disc problem; and balancing the muscles works well too. When you stretch, you’re stretching the muscles, tendons, and depending on how focused and specific you’re getting into your stretch – maybe some ligaments that connect the spinal vertebrae together, but that’s a hard “stretch.” Maybe that’s what you mean. The health of disc space is dependent on normal biomechanics of the spine, which is relative to muscle function & balance that supports it. Also, as the full article notes, “if you need to stretch, you should ask yourself why you need to.”

  13. There’s nuttin’ like a good butt stretch…hands down!

  14. I am a runner and I completely agree with you on the stretching thing (not so much on all the runners comments…well, maybe some of it.)
    If stretching is so important, than why can I run 50-60 miles in a week and my right leg will feel fine without stretching one bit? Don’t tell me that my left leg hurts because I don’t stretch. Bull shit.
    Are my muscles in my left leg tight? Yes. Is the proximate cause of the tightness my lack of stretching? No. The muscles in my left leg are weak and I need to work on strengthening them, not stretching them.
    I use the foam roller to loosen up my tight muscles. Preventative measures? Strengthening my quads, ankles/feet, abs, etc.

  15. anonomyssy says:

    when my dog starts streching? Obviously this author has no dog…my and all dogs that are still alive, stretch as do cats, and just about every other animal…ok, maybe not fish.

    Not only does this author not have a dog, this person also knows very little about fascia and connective tissue in the body, streching is key for health and continued flexibility….you stay stuck, I’ll stay fluid.

    • Actually that says “static stretching.” – Does your dog static stretch? Would love to see it. I have 2 dogs, 3 cats, and other furry animals. None of them static stretch. Actually no animal does. Do I still no nothing about fascia and connective tissue?

      • But your article is against stretching in general. By mentioning that you never see animals “static stretch” proves absolutely nothing. You are playing with the words to make it appear as if if animals dont stretch AT ALL as some kind of evidence for your flaky article.

        By admitting animals do stretch counters your claim that our bodies and animal bodies need to be stretched in order to be at peak performance.

        • Read the other stretching articles please.

          • Mike McMahon says:

            Have you ever seen an animal place a limb on trunk or rock or chair leg brace and forcefully lower its body? That’s my interpretation of static stretch.

            Stags use limbs and trunks to scrape of their dead velvet off.

            Gorillas rub up against tree trunks to scratch their backs.

            Otters use stones to break open shellfish.

            Birds bathe in water or dust to clear parasites.

            What he’s saying is that other animals have not evolved static stretching, so that questions whether it is of use. Of course, humans do many things that other animals don’t, that many or may not benefit them.

            It’s the naturalists arguement…

          • Mike, I’ve never seen an animal hold a stretch for thirty seconds or longer. Usually, they do a stretch, hold it for a second or two, then readjust and either sit down or walk away. They are in constant movement rather than doing long, concentrated stretches.

            If you actually read the Sock Doc’s articles, you’d know what he’s talking about. He’s made it pretty clear.

  16. alex cardenas says:

    interesting point of view, and one to consider especially if stretching really does promote injuries. My only question would be, in regards to say olympic lifting where lack in shoulder mobility leads to poor snatching and jerking, how can I overcome this when I clearly see static holds instantly improving range of motion. Im not arguing your point of view what so ever Im just very concerned as this applies seriously in my sport.

    • Hi Alex, yeah it’s a good question and thanks for being so nice – you’re free to argue if you feel differently! My view on stretching is not just based off “the research” – but a lot of clinical experience treating all types of people and all types of athletes. So shoulder mobility is clearly important in your sport as it would be too if you were say a baseball player, a swimmer, etc. and ROM is very important all the time too. But it’s about natural ROM which is a reflection of normal muscle balance – this is normal “flexibility.” If you’re seeing improvement in your lifts when you stretch more, then you might be missing some muscle imbalances that could not only improve your ROM but also drastically increase your strength. The question is – does that pertain to you? And the answer is that it’s hard to say without someone actually looking at how you move and how the muscles function in relation to one another. If everything is working correctly and you feel that stretching (static) helps you lift more, then as long as you do it in a controlled manner (contracting antagonist muscles too), then it might benefit you – just as I mention it sometimes does for gymnasts and some other athletes.

  17. Nice. I just googled ‘I never stretch and no problems’ and found this page (and the related article)..

    I never stretch… ever.. and I run 40+ kms per week, as well as free weight training.. I am active every day or two and was trying to figure out why I have never been injured and the people I run / work out with are injured at least thee or four times per year.. the only difference so far is that they stretch and I don’t..

    I was worried about not stretching but I’m gonig to stick to not stretching .. there might be something in this..

  18. I am just arriving home from a manual therapy lab in my physical therapy program and searched “piriformis stretch” under google images. I am sad to say I came across this very poorly supported website against anti-stretching. Stretching can be very beneficial; it can be very hurtful too!

    Too muscle stretching can create joint laxity on the joint capsules and ligaments. This is especially dangerous in people who are slender, thinner individuals because it can result in a long-term, progressive joint instability. You can think of it kind of as a subluxation of your joint that happens little by little over time. This is ESPECIALLY dangerous if you dont have a strong core, have poor posture and are moving at lot at your spine. So then, if you progressively have more laxity at your spine, with age you are more prone to compression or damage to spinal nerve roots. The shoulder is another dangerous area to be stretching, because it is so mobile and requires more stability through muscular tone rather than getting more muscle length.

    Heres why you are 100% wrong: yes athletes probably stretch too much and are uneducated and stretch the wrong way. But it is EXTREMELY important to perform certain warmup stretches prior to activity. For the most obvious reason: BLOOD FLOW! Muscles and tendons get their nourishment from blood flow through intermittent tension allowing more blood flow to the area. It also increases the extensibility of your joint capsule. Stretching also creates intermittent stretch to your joint capsule to the joint, which releases a fluid call synovium that nourishes your joints and keeps them strong.

    So contrary to your little analogy about “sea water is hydration for your body” ; stretching is an exercise for your body, so long as it is performed when necessary and correctly. And not like the image of the 10 year old boy you posted, who may have herniated all of the vertebral disks in his spine by now.

    For example: in runners, the hamstrings are working HARD, concentrically and eccentrically throughout your running, or gait, cycle. And they become tight. If they are not stretched, there is no blood flow to the tendon and muscle fibers. This results in a chronic tendonitis, also known as tendinopathy. If it goes on long enough, the collagen alignment of your muscle fibers and tendons change and become a big tangled messed. This creates major alterations in the amount of force your muscle produces. you start using other muscles to compensate and pretty soon it is affecting the alignment of your pelvis, knee, and ankle.

    It is especially important to stretch the lower extremity, particularly for athletes. As long as they are doing it right! And encorporating strength and endurance exercises which target the muscles that they demand more of in their daily individual activities. Unfortunately most of our society is not provided the right education on trunk stability when performing stretches. If you are stretching your hamstrings, or quads etc, you MUST not flex/rotate/bend your lumbar spine/back to get further in a stretch, or else you will be targeting an area other than the muscle to be stretched. If athletes, especially runners, dont stretch, you can create dramatic alterations in your joint positions and kinematics resulting in overuse injuries, knee problems, and even worse: compensation by moving at your lumbar spine.

    Bottom line: a beautiful home exercise program consists of a mixture of :
    1. stretches for muscle length and capsular extensibility where needed
    2. improving the endurance of your stabilizing muscles of your back, core and lumbar region with high repetitions, low load dosage exercise
    3. encorporating strengthening exercises with high load low repetitions
    4. global exercise, aka walking!
    5. therapeutic exercise that promotes tissue healing to the injured tissue, whether it be bone/ cartilage( provide intermittent compression ), ligaments( perpendicular forces applied), muscle( intermittent contraction and stretch) or joint capsule( prolonged stretch to increase extensibility)

    For each individual, this should be modified and catered to their impairments and addressing appropriately whether it is a chronic/ acute muscle injury, cervical/lumbar radiculopathy, intra-articular problem, joint capsule tightness/laxity. So yes, a program consisting of 100% stretching is just plain wrong. But it is a useful tool for injury rehabilitation and prevention, not only to muscles but to nerves, blood vessels, capsule, ligaments etc.
    If you are more interested in what I have said, please check out http://www.physioadvisor.com.au . It is an excellent source of education for taking care of your body and managing and preventing an injury. There are lots of good stretching techniques that tell you the RIGHT way to do them as well.

    So, now are you really going to try to tell everyone that stretching is “not healthy”? Your site is almost humerous to me. But as a physical therapist student, it is too frustrating to me for it to be funny because it is a serious problem how you are miseducating people. Get your facts straight next time guys.

    • Britt, thanks for your interest in my “miseducating” – so to sum up:
      *I am 100% wrong about stretching but you agree in certain instances it can be harmful. How does that make me 100%. Don’t I get at least 50%?
      * Slender people shouldn’t stretch? Does that mean fat people can? Slender people have no core strength? I’m confused at your body-typing.
      * It’s dangerous to stretch your shoulder because they are mobile? You’re kidding right? So other areas are not mobile so you can stretch them?
      * You say “Heres why you are 100% wrong: yes athletes probably stretch too much and are uneducated…” Huh? I’m 100% wrong but then you agree. Did you read what I say about a warm up?
      * Your statement “in runners, the hamstrings are working HARD, concentrically and eccentrically throughout your running, or gait, cycle. And they become tight. If they are not stretched, there is no blood flow to the tendon and muscle fibers.” If you really believe that hamstrings become “tight” from running and therefore need to be stretched to get blood flow there then, well, ah…I have to tell you that if you didn’t have blood flow there as you say then the tendons and muscles would die; and muscles don’t become tight from normal, natural movements unless there is a muscle imbalance. I don’t stretch and my muscles have blood flow. I’m sure of it; I just checked.
      * The link you’re trying to promote on my site (which tries to get you to become a member) has an ad for perhaps the worst, most harmful shoe on the market – the Gravity Defyer. You also promote anti-inflammatories to help with non-inflammatory problems (such as plantar fasciitis). I usually delete these links but I’ll leave yours up for fun.
      * Stretching is the WORST thing you can do for an injury rehab Britt. If you’re stretching your patients, that’s really a shame.

      If you’re going to come on this site and call my work “funny”, “humerous” (sic) and tell me I’m miseducating, please back up your facts with more than what you just learned recently in your class, especially if you’re going to come out guns-blazing. I’m all for someone stating an indifference, but I don’t put up with this BS especially when you’re so rude; we’ve all got better things to do.

      • Hahaaa, you tell her, doc! Funny article. I also enjoyed reading all the comments and replies. I’m sure you too had a good laugh at some of these overly serious replies from people; it’s like they were trying to pin you as a stretching heretic of sorts.

      • Walter Dooster says:

        I suspect Britt will look back at this experience the same way I reflect back on my first beer – realizing that my confidence GREATLY exceeded my competence at the time.

        The National Association FOR Stretching Because It’s Obvious That’s The Only Way To Get Blood To Muscles (NAFSBIOTTOWTGBTM) group has just released a statement completely disavowing any association with Britt, and are actually suggestion YOU wrote that post yourself to make stretching supporters look “immature, small minded and probably French” … I’m just quoting the news article.

        Thanks again for all the great insights.

  19. Pretty awesome article man, gotta hand it to your bluntness which I highly appreciate. For those using the dog and cat argument, we do the same thing when we wake up in the morning as they in that we yawn and stretch out our arms maybe squeeze our legs but they don’t grab their paws (with their opposable thumbs) and pull. How would this be beneficial? The only thing that would do is teach your ligaments/ tendons to lengthen themselves and let body parts sway in the wind (so to speak). Its gotta be a tight fit and easy progression, the body isn’t meant to get off the couch and run a half marathon in 6 weeks. Put down your wheatgrass shot and practice the research rather than reading it and spewing your diarrhea of the mouth.

  20. This is a great article. The unfortunate stretching habit has been drilled into me for my entire life; I am amazed and grateful to have this wisdom. I am also amused at how much angst this has quickly stirred up. As a former member of the flat-earth stretching society, I am quite willing to embrace this new globe concept you propose. :) Have always been suspicious and confused about static stretching when it doesn’t relieve problems or seem to help. So I’ve been experimenting with more dynamic movements and gentle aerobic warmups, as well as diet changes. And wouldn’t you know…

    Thank you, Sock Doc!

  21. hellraiser says:

    I don’t know. It seems to me that static stretching, for longer than a few seconds, prior of after exercising, is potentially more negative than positive. But if you plan on doing some type of sport as martial arts or gymnastics or whatever, you need to have specific stretching training. So, I tend to agree that if you don’t need a wider range of motion for some specific reason, stretching is probably pointless.

  22. First of all, I have enjoyed your podcasts on Trail Runner Nation. Nice work!

    I’ve been running for 4.5 years now. My longest race is a trail 100K and fastest was a road 5K 19:24. I have never stretched nor felt like it would help. It always seemed like one of those things you read about in running magazines that didn’t make sense, like frequent ice baths. I appreciate hearing what you have to say on this subject. It’s like the first dentist you meet who isn’t scared to let you know that mercury in your mouth is bad. You get the “I knew it!” feeling.
    I admire the diligence with which you respond these hostile commenters. Keep up the good work and stay positive.

    • Thanks! There is a 4 part Sock Doc First Aid series starting one week from today, July 19th, that will discuss the ice baths (specifically Part II on the 26th).

  23. I am home, out of work due to Peroneal Tendonitis. I found your site on youtube.
    I am a healthy 53 yr old 5’2″ short, slender.. 128lb woman.
    I have a pre-existing tendonosis of my right hamstring friom a work related overstretch injury from 2005. I have not been to physical therapy as yet for this foot injury, and am concerned about what techniques the therapist may apply to this injury.
    With the hamstring injury my first course of therapy was traditional and very unhelpful. Hot towel application, static and manual stretching of hamstring, plus deep tissue massage. Ultrasound too. Initially the pain would be better, but within 24 hours my leg would burn.
    I changed PT sites and went with a sports therapist.. he had me treadmill walk warm-up for fiive minutes, and then a couple static stretches with my foot at angle on the edge of the treadmill. Then I used a ball to do lower lumbar bridge strengthening, and then both leg ball hamstring curls. Pull the ball toward me using the calf and hamstring. He also had me lie on my side and lift the down leg up and then do the same on the other side. At least this didn’t hurt 24 hours after, and the hamstring ache subsided and I was able to not need to continue pain meds.
    But, this right hamstring continues to be significantly weaker than the left side.
    ~I go to the gym, use treadmill for 5 – 15 minutes and then proceed to hand weights for upper and lower body/ 8- 15 lb. I was trained to dynamic stretch after treadmill warm up. My primary leg work out is wt’d (16 lbs)squats. Only machine I use is leg press. On press: 15 lbs. single leg push, 10-12 reps, 3 sets.. each side. Why? The right leg can only handle that much work, the left leg wonders what we are waiting for. So, I am out of balance. Has my poor hamstring eventually caused my ankle injury?
    Right peroneal tendon issue came up (9.12.12) as I [stepped up on a deck step] at a production work station and my foot slipped and this injury presented itself. My current treatment is to let it rest. MD suggested Advil, I declined. Minimal walking, epsom salt foot baths.. and the ankle wrap support given me by the ortho.
    Should this type of injury be treated with stretch therapy? I would like to get back to my life. I eat minimally processed food. I am a Protein Power/Atkins and Gary Taubes (low carb) follower. My job is at a production facility, long hours, concrete floors, lots of walking in hard soled and high structured shoes. Orthotics were Rx for the hamstring. I have always thought the orthotic correction was at the expense of other musculature normal functioning.

  24. Hello

    Do you consider cobra pose a dynamic or static stretch? And do you recommend performing it?

    Thanks.. Great info

    • Static and I don’t like it too much. Not great for the low back. If you’re going to do it then don’t push it to the point where you’re stressing your low back and/or holding for several seconds (say >5).

  25. I never comment on websites, but I absolutely agree to this article.

    I’ve never stretched as long as i’ve been alive and I have always been very athletic. I lone distance bike, walk, skate. I have practiced martial arts all of my life.
    am very active and willing to exercise.

    But when I began attempting to stretch, it just made things seem awful. It hurts to stretch, I feel like i’m ruining my muscle.
    Same as getting massages. I never liked massages, I feel like when someone would try and give me a shoulder massage, it didn’t feel good and the only thing it left me with was a relaxed shoulder area and the ability to feel my shoulders tense back up over time.

    Your body is naturally supposed to be ‘together’ not flimsy and separate all over the place.

    Your bones and muscles are supposed to be firm and aggressive, not contorted to put ourselves in a ball.

    Someone can run and lift and exercise for all their life without stretching just as often if not more as someone who does stretch.

  26. If you aren’t flexible, you’re nothing. You must have extreme flexibility to be something in this world.

  27. Hi,
    I’ve participated in cross country running in my school years where we would jog lightly for quarter of a mile to where we would begin the coarse. I’ve have lifted free weights steroid free for many years and only every warmed up using light weights. At Judo the instructor mainly used dynamic stretching very little static stretching. Then about 3 year ago I started doing yoga, not good I’m with doc. Stretching is a big no no!!!!!!
    What ever sport you’re about to participate in start off lightly until your heart rate rises and a good flow of blood then you’re ready to rock.

  28. I could not disagree more. Yes, some muscles are too long and should not he stretched (hamstrings in particular for someone with an anterior pelvic tilt) but some muscles are shortened and greatly benefit from static stretching both before and after exercise. And no, stretching does not weaken muscles:
    http://www.strengthcoach.com/public/1333.cfm

    It comes down to common sense. We sit a lot, our hip flexors get shortened from this position. They should be stretched and the glutes should be strengthened.

    • This question was already addressed in the comments of “Stop Stretching!” and I don’t agree with you link there. If you do, that’s cool. But I don’t. Note that while people love to say what they think, believe, and feel is right, much is based off what they read. I work on patients all day long. So if you don’t think (static) stretching weakens muscles well there’s not much hope to convince you otherwise.

  29. Not only that, but promoting JUST trigger point therapy is only half the battle. In order to understand stretching one needs to be aware that tissue quality can get both dense (foam roll) and short (stretch). If you transition someone who’s been wearing a heel shoe for most of his life to a flat shoe, simply wearing the flat shoe may not be enough to get those locked short calves longer – some stretching would be required. It’s simply another important tool to use for rehab and health – you are doing people a disservice by speaking so poorly of it. The “animals don’t stretch” argument is invalid.. Do other animals sit as much as us? Have they worn high heeled shoes for years? Do other animals train for endurance events like us? It’s a poor argument.

    • Drew, the point here is that we (humans) shouldn’t be sitting all day either and if you think you can negate that with some “hip flexor” stretching then good luck with that. Same goes with your high heels example. It’s like saying you can eat junk food but negate it with exercise or a multi-vitamin. The point here is to change what you’re doing and MOVE. Not wear high heels and sit all day. And if you do sit all day as unfortunately many need to do then the health of that individual will have a huge impact in how “tight” they feel.

      You might also read this to learn some better ways to create flexibility in the hips: http://sock-doc.com/2012/09/move_naturally-dont_stretch/

  30. I certainly see where you are coming from and especially in the enduance field, runners love stretching and often are hurting themselves more through their stretching routine.
    The reason I agree with the link I posted is because coach Mike Boyle is not some guy who just reads things on the internet. In fact he has an article addressing exactly those kind of people. He’s speaking as an expert in the field of strength and conditioning, as co-owner of the most popular gym in the country. What’s great about him is he basis his training philosophies off of positive results, and since his number one job is to “do no harm”, he has found that by programming static stretching into the warm up and cool down, he has helped keep more people healthy. Yes I agree that people need to change their lifestyle and move more, but in my opinion (and coach boyle’s, and many others in his field), even sitting for an hour a day can change tissue quality and affect the neuromuscular system. If you really want to encourage not getting hurt, then you should also be advising people not to run endurance events in the first place. You obviously won’t win that argument, so why not help them and at least try to put them in the best possible situation to stay healthy?

    And no, some hip flexor stretching is not enough to cancel out all the sitting. But a properly designed strength training program can; and the static stretching (like I said before), is a useful and effective tool in the toolbox.

    Not to mention, are you not aware of the research done on eccentric achilles loading to help treat chronic achilles pain?

    • Actually as you may know from reading other article on this site, I often advise against such endurance events. I don’t think most people should be doing them in the first place. Most people can’t even run correctly. It’s a big problem. But static stretching isn’t going to help that; actually it often makes their already unhealthy ways more so.

      I agree that a proper training program (strength and conditioning) is the way to go. But I can’t agree with you on the static stretching. Sorry :) I’m of course all for people moving often, all day, and with good posture/form – not crossing this leg over that one and doing some crazy stretch.

      Eccentric loading of the Achilles – yes I’m aware of. I wouldn’t call that “static stretching” though. It’s a natural, more dynamic movement and for the most part I like those. And I’d rather see someone do a one-leg calf raise as I show in my video and walk around barefoot to naturally lengthen the Achilles, at least before they go right to the eccentric loading exercises.

  31. Mike McMahon says:

    Thank you for the education. I’m in physical therapy. My therapist has done wonders removing surgical scar tissue through myo-fascial release. My abdomen feels 20 years younger, combined with weight training.

    The problem I have with the PT is that she wants to treat me for what I see as no problem. She is always commenting that my hamstrings and calfs are too tight. She wants me to stretch them through “yoga” techniques. In fact, for the first time this week, she had me stretch my quads. I’m a avid hiker, I have strong quads. That stretching really weakened them.

    So the question is, questions are, the hamstrings are antagonistic to the quads, correct? What’s antagonistic to the calves (gastronemeous)? Is it really a problem if you tend to walk quickly and favor the front of your foot? does this lead to calf tightness? As I said, I’m an avid hiker, and actually find it harder to move at a slower pace.

    I like your comment about your dog. My 2 cats dynamic stretch all the time too, never static. Do THEY love a good dynamic stretch! I have a degree in biology and greatly appreciate that observation. Before I read your article, this morning I was thinking, “did our hominid ancestors stretch before, or after, being chased by a leopard?”

    • Yes, you’re correct on the antagonistic muscles there and that would be the tib anterior (shin muscle) to the gastroc. But it’s more involved than that. PT’s and many others think that if your muscle is tight then you stretch it and exercise the antagonist. It doesn’t work that way. Ever.

      There’s a reason the muscle is tight – which I would define as being unable to be neurologically inhibited. This is often impossible to know on your own; in my office I use specific muscle testing to see how the muscles are working and if they are under, or over, functioning. So the hammies may be tight from an inhibited “weak” quad but maybe from your foot – or maybe from your pelvis or even what you put on your feet. Lots to consider.

      It’s hard to say if your gait is a problem w/o seeing it. I’m not concerned whether someone lands a bit more on their heel or their forefoot as long as that’s “normal” for them and as long as they’re not trying to force some gait pattern because they think or heard that’s the correct way.

  32. i hurt myself stretching and my chest muscles ache all the time now. what does that mean, in terms of my body? how long til i repair?

  33. Mark David says:

    Please Help! About once a year my lower back would “go out”. I would be out of work for about 2 weeks and lay around until it healed. I started stretching every day sometimes twice a day and also hanging upside down. My lower back felt so much better at first but now it aches all the time. I read your article and I am sure I was stretching way too much. I have stopped stretching but my lower back still aches, especially when I sit. Did I damage the muscles in my lower back? Will they repair themselves?
    Thanks!

  34. I hope you can help. Long story, short: car accident two years ago resulted in whiplash, soft tissue damage down left side of back and into my lower back, and leg. Six months of physio/massage and I felt good. Couple of months later, I decided to see a personal trainer to get some good core strength and other areas of fitness (pre-accident, I was in decent shape, but mostly through hiking and yoga, rather than gym workouts). My trainer took my personal history and I emphasized everything I went through with my accident. Within about 3 sessions of boot-camp style work-out I got the beginnings of what I would later discover to be piriformis/sciatic pain. When I mentioned the pain, she told me to stretch more (maybe that was the worst advice ever!). I persevered not knowing what was to come. Several weeks later I was in an agony that I can only compare to labour pain. Seriously, waves of agonizing pain in my butt and calf in my left leg. I could barely walk especially after sitting or sleeping. Sitting itself became unbearable. Back to physio. She hadn’t dealt with this before, but developed a regime of stretches and “sloppy joe” push ups based on The MacKenzie (I think that’s the name) method. Did physio for 5 months. No success. I tried acupuncture, chiropractic, massage all to no end. What I did find is that each of these therapies eventually aggravated me further. I stopped any interventions and actually improved somewhat but only in the sense that I wasn’t in constant agony. The pain became manageable (with Advil). The problem is that even at this manageable level, I still wake up almost every night at 3am or so in great pain and have to take more Advil. The mornings are still bad and I haven’t been able to sit on any sofa or armchair in our house for a year now (strangely enough our hard kitchen chairs are kinder to me). Throughout this, I noticed that walking is my best friend, but I work etc (need to sit at a computer for part of the time) and just can’t walk all the time! In an attempt to get rid of the level of pain that I found to persist, I got a steroid shot in my SI joint (my physician recommended it months ago, but I was suspicious of it). WORST move—my pain regressed to its initial levels and 3 weeks on I am slowly trying to get myself back to a manageable level of pain. My physician has also put me on gabapentin (I’m only 5 days in on a very gradual schedule of increase, so I’m not noticing anything yet). I’m scheduled for an MRI (will have to wait several months), but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to result in any insights that will lead to a miracle cure. My searches on the internet are frustrating: “do this stretch and rid yourself of piriformis!!” promise. The real truth is in the many message boards where people who have suffered this for years (and have tried every therapy out there) share their stories of pain and frustration and the seeming lack of real knowledge out there about this often times hideously painful condition.
    I don’t expect you to “cure” me, but do you have any advice? I’ve been stretching almost every day since this happened and am wondering if this, despite feeling good sometimes (esp the figure 4 stretch) has caused more harm than good. In desperation, Susan

  35. Paradox says:

    Wow. I am so stunned by the level of subjectivity in your article and the complex it has formed within you. As somebody that has never advocated stretching and considers a warm up aerobics for 5-10min and light weight set prior to the other sets, I am completely amazed how you can be so one sides about something that is anything but black and white. Just like you say that it has never been proven that stretching is beneficial, IT HAS NEVER BEEN PROVEN that its harmful either. Now how about that. Why? Well because it would be impossible to get any comnalusive EMPIRICAL results. That is because there is just too many unknown variables that factor in(ex. Sleep patterns the previous nights, air pressure, motivation, hydration, air temp, etc, etc). Stating 5% performance difference in a test with variable accuracy(subsequent physical testing is absurd and next day repetition brings in way too many new factors in hence the uncertainty into its accuracy) is absolutely absurd.

    Now. Saying that animals don’t static stretch because of any reason is laughable at best since there is no way you can communicate with them to find out way. Could very well be that they are not enough intelligently advanced to figure out that longer will be more beneficial. Mind you my dog stretches for at least 15 secs front and back legs after every long nap.

    It really comes down to circumstances and personal preference since there is no empirical conclusion for it to be black or white. For example if you sit for 8hrs and your knees are bent and hamstring shortened, stretching lightly every couple of hours will be beneficial alright. You gotta be a dumb*ss to say otherwise because it simply feels better and since there is no other evidence that will do…nobody knows if a 10 sec or a 2 min hold is better than the other and nonpdy will anytime soon. Maybe with this nanotechnology we might get an “inside” glimps…till then its all somebodies opionion…yours included…