Isn’t stretching important?

While conventional wisdom has led us to believe that this is so, there is actually no credible scientific evidence to support the theory that suggests that stretching prevents or protect against injury.  In fact, the opposite may be true. Stretching, especially before exercise, can actually increase the susceptibility to injury. The function of connective tissue is to stabilize a joint, but after stretching, the connective tissue does not immediately return to its original length. This can increase the chance of injury.

What may be most important for us to remember is this:  in HIT, we stretch our muscles to the degree necessary for a healthy range of motion. The excessive ranges of joint motion we commonly see in gymnasts and dancers are far from desirable for the typical person. Why?  It’s this extreme flexibility which can lead to joint laxity and problems in joint stability. Stretching to achieve flexibility can also cause injury just in the process of stretching. In fact, the term “muscular flexibility” is a bit of a contradiction: joints flex, muscles contract. While joint flexibility is desirable, certain joints like the ball and socket joints in our hip and shoulder have the ability to be stretched past what would be considered normal – this is known as hyperextension.  

When a muscle contracts, the opposite muscle stretches. This is sufficient to keep our joints flexible enough for normal everyday tasks.  On the other hand, if we engage in a sudden, abrupt activity such as a sprint or jump, we must recall what we discussed regarding safety: sudden changes in force are precisely what create the potential for injury.  HIT focuses on stretching the muscles and joints to the limits of what they will allow – while under load and in a slow, controlled movement. This ensures safety, and negates the need for stretching.