The typical narratives around stretching are as follows:
It clinically helps prevent muscle shortening
Makes “tight” muscles loose
Decreases delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
Increases range of motion (ROM)
Decreases injury risk
Stretching is widely used as a modality for all of these purposes and more. From one of the latest research reviews on stretching, “There was high‐quality evidence that stretch did not have clinically important effects on joint mobility in people with or without neurological conditions.”
Regarding the most common reason to stretch, “stretching has been shown to alter perception or tolerance to a position rather than actually altering tissue properties in a meaningful way.”
Basically what this means is that stretching doesn’t do anything to actually lengthen a tight muscle, it just increases our tolerance to the stretched position, which doesn't translate well to performance.
Stretching had no significant clinical effect on DOMs or injury risk either. And in most studies, stretching had negative effects on power and force production while not having much of an effect on endurance activities.
Don’t buy into the outdated narratives surrounding mobility and stretching. We tend to have the range of motion necessary to do what physical activities are necessary but we lack the proper strength and adaptation in those ranges of motion to access it.
So how do we actually increase our active mobility and range of motion?
Changing how you perform resistance training movements and slowly increasing your range of motion over time is a much better “mobility” drill than 99% of what you see out there.
This could be as simple as squatting lower and lower over time while increasing load accordingly. It is quite counter-intuitive to how most people train, by increasing load and decreasing range of motion to accommodate.
A romanian deadlift performed to the maximum range is a more effective hamstring stretch than any you’ll see on social media.
I personally spend no time "stretching" yet I'm able to reach extreme ranges of motion with significant load. It has everything to do with how I perform my exercises. Keep this in mind the next time you feel the need to “stretch”.
To your good health,
If you’d like to see the published review I cited, check out the link below: