Pre- or post-run stretching in the form of static holds, dynamic ballistic movements, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) have been an integral part of running programs due to the trends set by health professionals and coaches and supported by questionable scientific studies.
The following paragraphs will address the most common myths surrounding stretching and physical activity with specific reference to running.
Stretching and Injury Prevention
As we have demonstrated in this running series thus far, the cause of injuries is multi-factorial. There is some evidence which supports muscle tightness and joint range of motion restrictions as risk factors for injury (Witvrouw et al 2001) however this does not automatically equate to stretching as a direct method of prevention.
Stretching pre-run does not reduce your risk of injury and may actually increase it. When a muscle is held in excessive range temporarily, its tolerance to stretch decreases as does its protection mechanisms against elongation. Therefore, if you hold a static hamstring stretch before you go for a sprint, your body’s natural protective reflex mechanism is dampened, thereby increasing the risk of a hamstring strain. On a larger scale again, three recent systematic reviews have similarly concluded that static stretches are proven to be not beneficial for sports injury prevention (Thacker et al 2004, Hart 2005, Lauerson et al 2014).