In many ways, the Marine Corps is fifty years behind the times. The physical fitness habits of many young and old Marines are detrimental holdovers from a less enlightened time. Doing more harm than good, many such habits persist well beyond when science and professional sports have found safer, more efficient, or more effective training methods.
A primary example is in stretching, especially before exercise. Many scientific studies have been published in recent years showing the danger, or at least ineffectiveness, of stretching before exercise. One new study has been recently published by the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
In “The Role of Neural Tension in Stretch-Induced Strength Loss,” researchers Malachy McHugh, Jamie Tallent, and Chris Johnson found that hamstring stretches reduced leg strength. “Hamstring stretching with increased neural tension resulted in strength loss with no associated shift in the length-tension relationship,” as they phrased it.
The Bottom Line
Stretching before lifting weights or running may make your muscle feel “loosened up,” but this study is just another example of the false friend that such a feeling can be. The best preparation is a gradual warm up of exercises mimicking the workout routine to be performed. Work smarter, not harder, right?