Stretching is much more than just a couple toe-touches before lifting. Here we dive deep into the science and the correct protocol to follow.
There are many schools of thoughts when it comes to stretching.
Some say it will reduce exercise performance and some say It’s an absolute must when it comes to health longevity and performance.
Let’s look at the actual science behind it and come to a conclusion
It is true that stretching can reduce maximal force output but we suggest still stretching before weight training and cardiovascular work.
Dr Andy Galpin one of the top trainers in the world explains how stretching prior to training will increase force output and lead to better performance.
By stretching tight muscles for example your calves or hip flexors before squatting you will be able to get into a better position and have better leverages. This will enable you to lift more and build more muscle.
We suggest still avoiding stretching the muscles you are about to use during your session as that will reduce force output.
i.e., avoid stretching your pecs before you bench press.
As we age, we have a reduction in limb range of motion which in turn leads to a reduction in mobility.
Stretching and reducing this age-related decline is massively beneficial to increasing quality of life and longevity.
It also Improves posture and cognitive performance.
It has been even shown to reduce the risk of cancer!
Below is a study by Dr Helen Langevin who is a medical doctor and one of the directors of the national institute of health. Reference and link below
Langevin, H.M. et al (2018) ‘Stretching reduces tumour growth in a mouse breast cancer model’, Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5959865/
Breast cancer was chemically induced in all the mice.
The group of mice that stretched had a reduced tumour volume of 52%
The mechanism was reduced local tissue fibrosis and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Even though this was shown in an animal model it’s still very promising.
Best Protocol for Stretching
How long should we hold a stretch for?
All studies have shown static stretching is the best form of stretching for increasing limb length.
Better than ballistic and PNF stretching.
The study below showed how long we should be stretching for.
Brady, WD. et al (1997) ‘The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles’, Physical Therapy 1997, 77(10): 1090-6, Available at :
There were 93 subjects with limited hamstring flexibility split into 4 groups.
It was found the group who stretched 5 days a week for 30 seconds each stretch had the largest increase in flexibility.
With an increase from 30 to 60 seconds holds there was no increase in flexibility.
How Many times a week should we stretch?
Thomas et al in 2018 conducted a review of 23 articles called “The relationship between stretching typology and stretching durations effects on range of motion.” reference and link below.
Thomas, E. et al (2018) ‘The relationship between stretching typology and stretching duration: The effects on range of motion’, Int J Sports Med 2018 ; 39 (04) 243-254, Available at: https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0044-101146
The study found the following;
Static stretching is more effective than PNF stretching.
5 minutes total stretching per muscle group per week is best.
Stretching 5 days a week is optimal
Static stretching is the most effective form of stretching for improving limb length
The best protocol is 5 days a week holding each stretch for 30 seconds for 2 sets each session.
This leads to the optimal 5 minute total per week per muscle group
Stretching slows age related reduction in mobility and cognitive function
It can even reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer . . .