3 Common Stretching Myths Debunked
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3 Common Stretching Myths Debunked

Flex your mind with these facts before you hit the mat.
True or false? You should limber up before every workout.

False. A new study at Florida State University in Tallahassee determined that the total distance that runners were able to travel dropped by 3.4 percent when they stretched first. "Muscles and tendons are like elastic bands," says Jacob Wilson, PhD, the lead author. "When loose, they don't store and release energy as well, so you have to work harder to move the same distance."

True or false? To loosen up, you have to hold a stretch for several seconds.

False. Split-second, dynamic stretches, like side bends, toe touches, and arm swings (after a five- to 10-minute light cardio warm-up), can increase your range of motion without interfering with exercise performance, Wilson says.

True or false? Stretching is something you have to do to prevent pulls and strains.

False. No evidence has been found that stretching reduces the risk of injury. "However, if done consistently after your workout, it can strengthen and increase muscle mass, by causing tiny tears in the tissue when you stretch it -- just as strength training does," Wilson says.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2011.