PT on the Net Research

Stretching Before Exercise


Question:

During a recent group weight training class, I pre-stretched the hip flexors before doing lunges. The choreography was designed by a reputable company, and I never thought twice about it. A member questioned my intent and mentioned that she'd read an article in a physical therapy journal that specifically stated not to pre-stretch prior to performing an exercise. She mentioned the Gogli Tendon and it's response. Is this unsafe?

Answer

Stretching is a largely misunderstood science. We are told to stretch before and after exercise. The key is to do the proper stretches at the proper time. Prior to exercise, you want to stretch the "short/tight" muscles. This will "quiet" the muscle, allowing for better range of motion. Just as your client said, it will use the golgi stretch reflex to inhibit the muscle. The thing you don't want to do is stretch a weak muscle before exercise. The time it would be bad to stretch the hip flexors before exercise is if you have normal or long/weak hip flexors. You only want to inhibit the muscle if it is tight.

As a side note, I always remind people that you can read two articles on the same subject both written by "authorities," and they will have diametrically opposed views. Use logic and common sense to sort through the sea of misinformation.

References:

  1. Sharmann, Shirley. "Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes."