No sweat: Does stretching before and after a workout help?
Derek Meijer / Alamy Stock Photo By Chris Simms Stretching adds precious minutes to your workout, but is it all it’s cut out to be? Accepted wisdom has it that a good stretch helps avoid injury and leaves you less sore after a tough workout. But a 2011 review of 12 studies found that regardless of whether you do it before or after exercise, stretching doesn’t significantly reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (see “No sweat: Should my muscles be hurting days after a workout?”). It also doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of injuring your back or lower limbs. But it does seem to fractionally reduce the risk of some injuries to muscles, ligaments and tendons. This is especially true of dynamic stretching, where you move your limbs to increase the range of motion, says Nic Gill at the University of Waikato, who is also the head strength and conditioning coach for New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team. “The point of stretching should be to get good mobility and normal function,” he says. What about performance? In work now under review, Gill and his team looked at how stretching affected 20 athletes sprinting, jumping and changing direction. Although the participants felt the stretching would help, it made no difference. And aside from that fact it wastes time, there might be other good reasons to skip the stretch. “It may, in fact, reduce exercise performance for some types of activities such as endurance running,