Will being inflexible harm your physical performance or cause injuries? Get-Fit Guy answers a reader question.
But this can be confusing, because data has shown that static stretching doesn’t even reduce your risk of injury, which is one of the primary reasons that you may have been led to believe you should do static stretching before athletic activities!
So either static stretching doesn’t make you flexible, or it makes you flexible, but being more flexible doesn’t reduce your risk of injury. Which is it?
Fortunately, science has looked into this:
A study that reviewed over 360 other studies was published in the March 2004 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and that study of studies concluded there was no evidence that stretching before or after exercise prevents injury or muscle soreness.
However, the study did conclude that stretching does improve flexibility – but being flexible doesn't prevent injuries. As a matter of fact, one theory exists that suggests that increased flexibility may actually allow your joint to move into potentially more strenuous positions, resulting in subsequent soft-tissue damage around that joint.
So it turns out that all you really need is enough flexibility to be able to move your joints through the same range of motion they’ll be moving through when you’re performing your activity of choice (whether that’s lifting weights, swimming, doing gymnastics, or playing basketball).
In some cases, that necessary range of motion is high and demands significant flexibility. But in most cases, not much range of motion is necessary, and the type of arm swings, leg swings, and dynamic movements described in What Is The Best Way To Warm-Up? will suffice.