The Case Against Stretching

Alex Hutchinson, Outside:

To be honest, writing another “stretching is useless” article feels a little bit like spiking the football. A decade ago, whenever I wrote about evidence suggesting that traditional static stretching doesn’t have any obvious benefits and might even impair performance, I’d get a stream of angry messages upbraiding me for my ignorance. These days, the battle is over. No one is obsessed with touching their toes anymore.

Or so I thought. But when I saw a new opinion piece in Sports Medicine titled “The Case for Retiring Flexibility as a Major Component of Physical Fitness,” I couldn’t resist giving it a look. And one of the stats in the article caught my eye. According to a 2016 study of 605 personal trainers in the U.S.—virtually all of whom had certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association—80 percent of them still prescribed traditional static stretching to their clients. The battle’s not over after all.

I’ve also known for years that static stretching does nothing to improve my performance, yet I still do it for a minute or so before many of my runs. It’s weird how some things stay so ingrained with people.