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More Stretching Resouces

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching
by Lloyd Kahn

We publish the world's most popular book on stretching (Stretching, by Bob Anderson), so it’s with interest I’ve read recent articles claiming that "dynamic stretching” is the preferred stretching method for athletes, and that static stretching not only doesn’t help an athlete prepare for competition, but may even be harmful.

First, some definitions:

Dynamic stretching is defined as "actively moving a joint through the range of motion required for a sport."

Static stretching refers to holding a stretch with no movement.

• Stretching, as in Stretching, refers to a 2-phase stretch with movement.

I’m Bob’s editor and I’ve been talking to him about claims that static stretching** is not desirable. It’s nothing new to him. He says there was a well-publicized study in the 1994 Honolulu Marathon in which competitors who stretched had more injuries than those that didn't. (Curiously, this only applied to white males, not women or Orientals.) Bob wonders how the control group stretched; if they stretched incorrectly (as many competitors do), this could well have increased injuries. And why is it surmised that stretching caused the injuries?

In the following years, especially recently, sports trainers have cast doubt on the efficacy of static stretching before competition (although many of them recommend it after the event).

For athletes:  Bob thinks that after a warmup, some gentle stretches will prepare the athlete for drills, dynamic stretches, and further warming up. "Stretching gives your muscle a signal they are about to be used." Also that static stretching (2-phase) after the event is highly beneficial.

Curiously,  if you check out dynamic stretches, many of them are really drills. Arm swings, leg swings, side bends, toe touches. Nothing new here; these movements have been used for years by athletes in warm-ups; they just weren't called "dynamic stretching."

Some of the new dynamic stretches look good to me — those that take a regular stretch and add movement, mimicking sport-specific movements. You can see a video of some of these online at: If I were a competitive athlete, I'd look into dynamic stretching, and as well, listen to my coach or trainer. But I'd keep static stretches in my tool box.

For the general population — for ordinary people, not competitive athletes, Bob thinks his 2-phase stretching is as effective and useful as ever. Over 3-1/2 million people (worldwide) have bought and used Stretching (the great majority of them not competitive athletes). We've received favorable feedback for over 30 years. People say stretching makes them feel better. To get an idea what people say about Stretching, see the 112 reader reviews of it on Amazon: Samples:

"As an arthritis doctor, I have suggested this book to probably over 200 patients…"

"I swear by this book.…"

"I LOVE this book!…"

In fact, hundreds of millions of people throughout the world practice yoga, which is actually static stretching. Would they be practicing yoga if it wasn't beneficial?

To posit that dynamic stretching replaces static stretching is disingenuous. They each have their place. One doesn't replace the other, any more than TV eliminated radio, or the computer eliminated TV (or Nautilus machines replaced free weights). The millions of people throughout the world who have used Stretching (in 23 languages) will continue to use and benefit from the book. Competitive athletes and their coaches will continue evolving warming-up and stretching techniques, finding the best combination for optimum performance and avoidance of injury.

Stretching for ordinary people (such as computer users) is about feeling your body, paying attention to stiffness and flexibility. Bob tells you to tune into your body, to never push things to the point of pain, to never bounce, or do extreme stretches. Focus on how each stretch feels. Be sensitive to your body. You don't need a PhD to tell you how you feel, any more than you "…need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows". Try some stretches** and you be the judge.

Lloyd Kahn***

Editor, Shelter Publications

Bolinas, California

*Bob’s type of stretching isn’t strictly “static.” It consists of a 2-phase stretch. The “easy stretch,” where you relax into the stretch, is followed by the “developmental stretch,” where you move it a little fartheralways paying close attention to how your body feels.

**Go here to try some "Online Stretches" now: (Take a 2-minute break from your computer.)

***Disclaimer: I am editor and publisher of Stretching and Bob and Jean have been my good friends for 30 years. Proclaimer: Stretching with Bob's methods have helped me immensely in an extremely active life.

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