This is a very conflicting argument. The latest studies show there is no specific performance advantages to static stretching in endurance sport. But that does not mean it is not good for you or it does not reduce the risk of injury.
We do feel better after stretching, that is because when we stretch we increase the blood flow to the area.
There are 2 types of stretching, 1) Dynamic stretching: This is where the muscles and joints go through a whole range of motions to get the body warmed up, movements such as lunges, side twists, leg swings etc. Usually before an exercise routine.
2) Static stretching: A method of stretching the body beyond it's limits, and holding that stretch between a few seconds and a few minutes.
There is however another "stretch"... and that is nerve gliding. Nerve glides - also called flossing - do not stretch the nerves, but they help to improve the ability of the nerve to slide along the surrounding tissues. Our muscles and nerves can both be part of the reason why we perceive tightness.
An example of a nerve glide is the slump- Sit on the edge of a table or chair, slump your head & trunk and extend your leg out. You should feel tension along your back and the back of your leg (this can feel quite sickening, for me anyway). Extend your leg 10 times then swap legs. You can increase the feeling by flexing and extending your ankle.
Here are a few key points to take away from what we know about stretching in endurance athletes:
- Dynamic stretching should be done, static stretching only done as needed
- Glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves are key areas for stretching
- You can over stretch! Don't push anything that doesn't feel right! You may cause microtrauma!
- Stretching varies for different individual needs
- Your achillies / calf muscles act as a spring when running, too much stretching in these areas will not benefit the spring function.
- Stretching won't increase your performance.
- Don't forget to think about your joint mobility and range of motion
- Stretching alone is not a sufficient warm up
Listen to your body!
Tony Dodds- Olympic Triathlete and coach- Evolve Triathlon coaching.