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I was trying to learn more about healthy ways to deal with injuries and I think from this video by Athlean-X and this one from Mike they seem to imply that one should basically never statictically stretch. My understanding is taht when one applies a force (i.e. static stretching) then one is forcing the muscle to do something it wasn't able to do. Thus, if the muscle is tight it could tear. Since tight muscles are only caused by the antagonistic muscle being weak then we should always just strengthen the antagonistic muscle. This is my current understanding. However, I've heard physical therapist recommend static stretches. I always though all static stretches were not recommended. Which makes me think I have the wrong model of the role of:

  1. static stretches
  2. strengthening muscle

If someone understands the role of these in injury prevention (or in injury recovery) that would be fantastic.

I am not looking to cure myself or anything, just understand why I am seeing different recommendations, if perhaps there is 1 time static stretches are recommended (and thats injury recovery), then I'd be curious to understand why just to form a consistent model of how all of this works. Right now I see contradicting information and can't reconcile it, probably due to my limited understanding of orthopedics, fitness or something.

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    I think I've seen that Athlean-X video. I don't have time to re-watch it right now, but if I recall, he didn't say "never statically stretch", but rather don't stretch a muscle that is already being stretched constantly by an over-developed antagonistic muscle. I will have more time to look at this tomorrow, but please re-watch the video and see if you're interpreting it correctly. We'll discuss it! :) – Alec Jul 31 '18 at 21:46
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    I will write more in an answer when not on mobile. Static before exercise not recommended, do dynamic instead. Do static after. Don't ever do ballistic except in very specific instances. – JohnP Jul 31 '18 at 23:50
  • @Alec I provided those videos as the places I most likely think I saw these advices but I've seen to many to really know 100% where I got this misconception that static stretches are always bad. I think I just made the wrong interpretation of what static stretches were for or confused them with ballistic stretches, which seem to be the ones that require expert intervention. – Pinocchio Aug 1 '18 at 20:48
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The why of stretching is very much dependent on your personal physiology and the sport you are doing. With a few exceptions, you don't really need to stretch much past normal range of motion. There is no evidence that it helps with injury prevention***, and evidence that stretching at the wrong time can impact performance.

There are 4 basic types of stretching, and times that each should be performed:

Dynamic

This is basically active movement that mimics the activity you are about to do, in increasing amplitude. For example, runners will do leg swings, walking lunges, high knee drills, butt kicks. Basically gets the muscles warmed up and loose so that you don't go into an activity cold, so this type of stretching should be done before, and possibly mid workout depending on your goals.

Static

Pretty much what everyone thinks about when they think stretching. Sit and reach type activity. This is done to increase flexibility, but unless you are in a sport where specific flexibility is needed (Martial arts, gymnastics need overall flexibility. Hurdlers need leg flexibility esp in hamstrings, and so on.), it's not necessary to do. Static stretching done before a workout has been proven in studies to reduce power, and there has been no evidence that it helps with either recovery or injury prevention. This should be done either after a workout, or after a long warmup period, as static stretching on "cold" muscles increases injury risk.

Ballistic

The reach and bounce method. Popular in older times, then phased out, now making a bit of a comeback in specific training situations. The problem is that you can easily activate the stretch reflex in the tendons, which can easily result in tears/ruptures. It will, however, help train your body to recognize that movement at the extreme edge of the range of motion are ok, and there is some evidence that flexibility gains can be made faster than with static. Best done under supervision from an experienced trainer and again, after workout/warmup.

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)

Mostly partner stretches, but can be done solo for certain exercises. Basically your partner stretches your muscle (such as pushing your leg towards your upper body for front splits), and then resists while you contract the muscle being stretched for 5 or so seconds. As you relax, then then push the stretch deeper and hold it there for 20-30 seconds. Originally developed for rehab, it is effective, but should only be done once a week or so, as it is very intensive. Another one for after a workout/extensive warmup.

***Caveat on injury prevention

While there is no evidence that being flexible aids in general injury prevention, there are sports situations where not being flexible will introduce a greater chance of injury. Consider a first baseman reaching for an errant throw while keeping the back foot on the bag. As they step out and stretch, an inflexible person has a greater chance of lunging past their personal ROM and tearing something. I've had bike accidents where I stepped out for balance and my leg slid way wide. My ROM saved me from injury. So not quite injury prevention, but enabling a person to avoid injury in some specific situations.

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  • Thank you John! That was a fantastic. I think I get now that static stretching is mainly used for increasing flexibility (reaching further), but what I don't understand is, when is strengthening the antagonistic muscle useful for...if I workout the bicep, doesn't that also stretch the tricep automatically (or visa versa)? It just has the added benefit that something is getting stronger apart from getting less tight and longer? Or perhaps thats my confusion, strengthening only makes the worked muscle stronger AND untightness the antagonistic muscle but doesn't not provide stretching. Right? – Pinocchio Aug 1 '18 at 20:52
  • also the evidence you mention that stretching does not provide any help in injury recover...is that true? I think I heard (forget where sorry!) that light stretching can be good to introduce the body to motion again that can be good for injury recovery (for some reason unknown to me). Is that correct or maybe I misunderstood/misremembered what I heard? Thanks again! :) – Pinocchio Aug 1 '18 at 20:54
  • @Pinocchio mmm...kind of. Yes, if the antagnoist muscle limits range of motion, it could get stretched during lifting. Not the the effect that a dedicated routine would, though. For injuries, yes some stretching can be useful (depending on injury, etc). I stated that it hasn't been proven to help in injury prevention. Studies are still mixed/inconclusive on that point. – JohnP Aug 1 '18 at 21:34

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