We’re back with another “bro-science” debate and today were talking about stretching before a workout.
If you ask the guy posing in the locker room bathroom mirror, he’s probably gonna tell you that stretching is going to ruin all your sweet gains.
Then he might ask you to help him dry his back off because he lacks the basic mobility to reach back there… #gross
Anyway, stretching can be an incredibly valuable tool in your training toolbox and “Brotien McMirror-Pose” may actually be more right than wrong on this one, so let’s dig into the research and see whats up.
Question: Does stretching before a workout make me weaker and more likely to get hurt?
- Static stretching before you lift may result in a lower overall training volume
- Static stretching before your lift will probably not inhibit strength gains
- You’re probably not stretching enough & your lack of mobility is probably hindering your overall training
So the first two takeaways above are from this study from 2017.
The last one is from my 10-years of working with people like you.
Static stretching briefer you workout is one of those things you may have learned in high school gym class (along with staring at the ceiling when you squat 🙄).
But that doesn’t make it correct.
In the study mentioned above static stretching before exercise (in this case unilateral knee extension) resulted in a 15-20% decrease in overall volume when participants were asked to take each set performed to failure.
Which means they were able to do LESS work after static stretching.
Which means that “stretched” leg averaged about 7 fewer reps per training session.
And fewer reps does in fact lead to smaller #gainz.
However, strength was nearly identical in both groups.
So static stretching doesn’t seem to inhibit strength, even with a lower number of reps performed (Which is an interesting topic as well).
Yet, it appears that hypertrophy was significantly greater in the group that did not stretch before work (Probably because more volume equals more muscle growth). Again, this is a point that peaked my interest because I’d much rather be as strong as possible WITHOUT being big and bulky (Which can be a liability when cramming yourself down a hallway in full gear looking for a dirtbag in the back bedroom – for example)
And, not surprisingly, flexibility in the group that stretched was significantly greater than the group that didn’t stretch. #shocking
So that covers the study…
My personal observations over the last 12+ years training and coaching people are this:
- Your mobility sucks
- Because you probably sit all day or at the very least perform the same movement patterns repetitively
- This is leading to injuries that are 100% preventable and not some unavoidable consequence of getting older
- Your lack of mobility is limiting your overall performance
- You already don’t stretch enough, so don’t go looking for excuses to stretch even less.
So, what does this all mean for you?
It means that stretching before, during, after, in the middle of the night, every hour throughout the day, and any other time you think of it is still probably going to be better for you in the long run.
However, if you feel the need to do some high-intensity static stretching, you’re probably going to be better off saving that for after the workout.
Stretching & Mobility Resources
If hitting a local yoga class isn’t in the cards for you but you’d still like to work through a structured flexibility & stretching program then I highly recommend you check out ROMWOD.
I’ve been a customer for a number of years and it’s a dead simple daily follow along video to help you get more bendy.