The New Bottom Line on Stretching and Exercise

Despite decades of conflicting advice, stretching can be beneficial — if done correctly

Credit: Bernhard Lang/Getty Images


Generations of athletes, from youth leagues to professional sports, were taught to stretch before practice and games to improve performance and prevent injury. The routine typically went something like this: Stand on one leg, hold your heel to your hiney, and count to 10.

Then, about 20 years ago, studies began to suggest that stretching could actually worsen performance and increase injury risk, creating widespread confusion that persists today. The problem is that many of those studies looked at stretching in a vacuum, says David Behm, author of The Science and Physiology of Flexibility and Stretching. The kind of stretching that was most often assessed in research was almost always static, and typically not preceded by any warm-up nor followed by any dynamic movements prior to diving into the actual sports.

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