Why are runners obsessed with stretching?
Over the past year, especially since working in Sports Physio Ireland, I have been exposed to more and more middle and long distance runners. From the weekend warrior to the more serious athlete, it has been great to help them overcome and prevent injury. What is common thread among all runners is there wonder at getting injured with all the static stretching they confess to do. “I stretch everyday” and “I have done all the stretches my Physio has given me” are often the first words out of the presenting persons mouth. So lets’s make a few points clear and concise.
- Static stretching in research has shown not to decrease the injury risk of a person
- Static stretching reduces short term power and performance
- Static stretching does not increase the muscle or tendon length, it merely allows more pliability.
- In fact, being extra flexible is more of a risk at causing injury as the ability to stabilise the muscles and joints is lost/reduced, increasing the risk of joint issues and tendinopathies.
So what is the best way to increase your range of motion in a joint/flexibility?
This may surprise most readers, but the research has shown that eccentric strengthening will increase the joint ROM and/or flexibility greater than static stretching, with also the added benefits of improving force production and reducing injury.
And especially with runners, the value of strengthening work in improving running economy and injury reduction is enormous. So next time you spend 30 minutes in front of the TV going through your stretching routine think of the added benefits doing a strength session would achieve instead.
Thomas Divily MISCP