Huge stretching science review finds no benefits, minor risks
One article on PainSci cites Kay 2011: Quite a Stretch
PainSci notes on Kay 2011:
Are there benefits to pre-exercise muscle stretching? In this huge review of the scientific literature, researchers looked at more than 4500 studies before choosing about 100 to look at more carefully. It’s no surprise in 2011 that they showed a pattern of “overwhelming evidence that stretch durations of 30-45 seconds … imparted no significant effect.” A little more surprising was that they also found some evidence that more thorough stretching reduces muscle strength. I wouldn’t take this too seriously, but it certainly emphasizes the lack of benefit: if anything, it swings the other way. “The detrimental effects of static stretch are mainly limited to longer durations (≥60 s) which may not be typically used during pre-exercise routines in clinical, healthy or athletic populations. Shorter durations of stretch (<60 s) can be performed in a pre-exercise routine without compromising maximal muscle performance.”
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
INTRODUCTION: The benefits of pre-exercise muscle stretching have been recently questioned following reports of significant post-stretch reductions in force and power production. However, methodological issues and equivocal findings have prevented a clear consensus being reached. As no detailed systematic review exists, the literature describing responses to acute static muscle stretch was comprehensively examined.
METHODS: Medline, ScienceDirect, SPORTDiscus and Zetoc were searched with recursive reference checking. Selection criteria included randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials and intervention-based trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals examining the effect of an acute static stretch intervention on maximal muscular performance.
RESULTS: Searches revealed 4559 possible articles; 106 met the inclusion criteria. Study design was often poor as 30% of studies failed to provide appropriate reliability statistics. Clear evidence exists indicating that short-duration acute static stretch (<30 s) has no detrimental effect (pooled estimate = -1.1%), with overwhelming evidence that stretch durations of 30-45 s also imparted no significant effect (pooled estimate = -1.9%). A sigmoidal dose-response effect was evident between stretch duration and both the likelihood and magnitude of significant decrements, with a significant reduction likely to occur with stretches ≥60 s. This strong evidence for a dose-response effect was independent of performance task, contraction mode or muscle group. Studies have only examined changes in eccentric strength when the stretch durationswere>60 s, with limited evidence for an effect on eccentric strength.
CONCLUSION: The detrimental effects of static stretch are mainly limited to longer durations (≥60 s) which may not be typically used during pre-exercise routines in clinical, healthy or athletic populations. Shorter durations of stretch (<60 s) can be performed in a pre-exercise routine without compromising maximal muscle performance.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
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