Studies show stretching before running or jogging doesn’t prevent injuries and vice versa; running without stretching beforehand doesn’t seem to put someone at risk for injury.
For years, coaches, trainers and athletes have held to the belief that stretching will help prevent injury and lead to wider range of motion,therefore improving performance. According to the USA Track and Field website, millions of runners have a strict stretching period before they run, but the USATF study revealed runners who didn’t stretch before their workout weren’t any more likely to get an injury than those who did stretch.
However, the study concluded there might be some risks of not stretching if a person is overweight, is already injured or has suddenly stopped a stretching routine. According to an article on the US National Library of Medicine website, static stretches (stretches that require the body to reach forward to the point of tension) are better for gymnasts and dancers or any other sport that requires elite flexibility. However, the general consensus among studies is that dynamic stretching is better before running or most other sports. Dynamic stretches involve moving parts of your body, gradually increasing reach and speed of movement, such as swinging your arms back and forth or any other movements that imitate one’s sport. In others words, dynamic stretches are sport specific and should serve as more of a “warm up” for your exercise because they increase blood flow and loosen muscles.
More research labs and sports medicine organizations are likely to keep studying the issue because the results seem to be somewhat surprising, as most tests on the subject matter seem to be conclusive against intense stretching before running. However, an article on the Fit Today website supports the NLM’s statement that dynamic stretching is better for runners. The article states, “There have been studies that have shown that muscle strength can decrease up to 9% during the hour after static stretching and that coordination of explosive movement (such as in playing soccer) can be decreased as well.”
So in conclusion, the USATF study concluded if you’ve already conditioned your muscles to stretch before a run, don’t stop stretching, but move to more dynamic stretches to help enable bursts of power. Static stretching is probably better after a run, especially to help stretch the hamstrings and calf muscles.
Some effective dynamic stretches to do before a run are walking lunges and leg lifts. These are running-specific stretches that won’t stretch the muscles too much so that performance is decreased. For a list of dynamic running stretches click here.