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Counterproductive: stretching does not offer any protection against injury
Stretching before and after sporting activities should generally prevent injuries and muscle soreness, but experts from the German Sport University Cologne see a widespread misjudgment here. Stretching exercises are often counterproductive and even reduce performance, reports Professor Ingo Froböse from the Center for Health at the German Sport University in Cologne.
Although intensive stretching before strength training is considered essential for many athletes to minimize the risk of injury, stretching exercises before strength training do not actually protect against injuries, explained Prof. Froböse. The sports scientist advises against a longer stretching program before strength training and emphasized that dynamic stretches that are as short as possible are recommended.
Long stretching exercises reduce the performance of the muscles. According to the spokesman for the Center for Health at the German Sport University Cologne, extensive stretching exercises before strength training do not reduce the risk of injury. In addition, "a long stretching program before strength training can cause a decrease in performance," the expert explained. Especially with strength training, a detailed stretching program is counterproductive. Instead, Prof. Froböse recommends that the muscle groups to be trained be prepared for the stress by a short and dynamic stretch. Athletes should "do a very short and dynamic stretch before strength training" to activate the muscles that are to be trained afterwards. The stretching improves the “blood flow situation and mechanically sets the muscle to an effort,” explains Prof. If the stretching exercises are too extensive, the muscles relax and stretch, which leads to reduced performance and quick reactions, the expert said further. "The commute is just too long and the reaction takes too long," emphasized Prof. Froböse.
Stretching after strength training promotes tiny muscle injuries According to the sports scientist, stretching after strength training is also rather counterproductive, since the high strain on the muscles can lead to tiny injuries in the muscle tissue, which can expand in the course of the stretching exercises. "These micro-injuries can be aggravated by an intensive stretching program", explained Prof. Froböse and emphasized that "therefore, especially after strength training, no stretching is recommended". With regard to the supposedly reduced risk of injury from stretching exercises before sport, the spokesman for the Center for Health at the German Sport University in Cologne explained that the scientific literature has so far provided no evidence of injury protection from stretching. Rather, the expert believes that the risk of injury from stretching exercises may even be increased in some sports. "If, for example, contact with opponents - as in football - leaves the muscles with little time to react, injuries tend to result in relaxed muscles," explained the expert.
Warm-up exercises without stretching program Even though Prof. Froböse does not make any comments in his current information, a cold start without any preparation for physical exertion also hardly seems recommendable. However, a detailed stretching program should be avoided during the warm-up exercises - especially before strength training. (fp)
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