Is Stretching Counter-Productive to Strengthening or Strength Production?

Therapists, we are seeking your input. Do you stretch your patients prior to strengthening? Do you find it hampers strength output?

A recent article which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports adds credence to growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and possibly counterproductive.

What are your thoughts about this? Will it change how you treat your patients? Are there certain types of patients that still need stretching prior to strengthening? Do you work more with dynamic stretching? How does this fit in with patients exhibiting muscular imbalance (which was not addressed in these articles)?

A separate meta-study, which retrospectively looked at 104 past studies, claims that static stretching of 90 seconds or more prior to weight lifting reduces strength in those stretched muscles by somewhere between 2-5.5%.

Just why stretching hampers performance is not fully understood, although the authors of both of these studies write that they suspect the problem is in part that stretching does “loosens muscles and their accompanying tendons,” so they are less able to store energy and spring into action.

While this definitely affects athletes who really want to produce explosive muscular performance, for example, trying to sprint out of a starting block, or slam down on a tennis serve, it is unclear whether or not the same is true for our patients who are working on strengthening after an injury or surgery. It is noteworthy that they did not measure the strength of the muscle in the mid-range of the movement, when the muscle would be in a more shortened position.