Stretching versus Strengthening in the running population

Runners stretch because other runners stretch

Stretching versus Strengthening in the running population 

New research has been written identifying the lack of evidence to support the notion that stretching is the only tool that runners have to remain injury free, pain free and aiding recovery and warming to help aid performance. 

Stretching can be helpful in regaining movement after an injury but the recent evidence has shown that stretching has very little impact on injury prevention. Furthermore, it has been shown that stretches should be held for 30-45 seconds to achieve the desired effect of lengthening muscle. However, this can actually decrease the strength output in the stretched muscle group prior to stretching. Essentially, stretching can have a weakening effect on the muscle post stretching.  

In light of this research, I do not prescribe stretching as a injury preventative measure. Post assessment if the patient was presenting with a loss in there range of movement of a particular joint and they were having pain, I would prescribe stretching to regain that movement in the initial phases and then would start strengthening so the person would be able to regain their functional capacity. 

We must ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve through our exercise program. If you’re stretching as a injury prevention measure then this is probably a waste of your time. 

The evidence is very clear that strength and conditioning exercise reduces the incidence of overuse injuries by up to one third, but also benefit a number of performance factors as well. Some of these include improved trial performance times, improved power and improved running economy. Therefore, it is important that runners consider having a strengthening program that they complete in conjunction with their running program.  

Considering this new evidence above, it is important to note that strength and conditioning exercises need to be tailored for each individual and that they should be progressed gradually and that it is important to consult a health professional (physiotherapist or exercise physiologist) to ensure that your strength program is appropriate ie) it is tailored for your needs, including the right exercises and performed correctly to deliver the many benefits outlined above. If you have any further questions in regards to this article please don’t hesitate to email me on emmacondon@se16physio.co.uk  

Emma Elaine Condon (MSc) 

Advanced Physiotherapy Practitioner

SE16 Physiotherapy  

RunningEmma Condon