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To Stretch, or Not To Stretch: that is the question

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To Stretch, or Not To Stretch: that is the question

Old 02-17-19, 03:08 AM
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CycleryNorth81
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To Stretch, or Not To Stretch: that is the question

Do you stretch before, during or after a ride? Is it necessary?
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Old 02-17-19, 03:13 AM
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Definitely NOT before.

During is all right and can be good on long rides to work the kinks out of the back and shoulders.

After ... is up to you. You're warmed up so it might be time to work on the hamstrings if you want.
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Old 02-17-19, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by CycleryNorth81 View Post
Do you stretch before, during or after a ride? Is it necessary?
No and no.

If you like doing it, go ahead. I hate it, studies have shown it has nothing to do with cramping, and I think it's a waste of time.
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Old 02-17-19, 04:28 AM
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Depends. I never used to stretch when I was younger. That was before a lot of injuries. The muscles in the right side of my neck and shoulder are tight as barbed wire from injuries. No choice now if I want to ride at all -- I have to stretch, a lot.

I started out as an amateur boxer and back in the '70s there were all kinds of theories that old school coaches and fitness instructors had, including no weight lifting ("makes you too tight"), no swimming ("makes you too loose"), and no stretching or massages before a fight ("makes the muscles lazy").

Some of those had an element of truth, but mostly because some athletes went to extremes. I knew a guy from high school boxing who later became a world champion. He lifted weights and may have ruined his technique with muscles that were way too tight -- after several years he couldn't throw a right hand properly and he'd gas out too quickly from developing the wrong muscles.

At the other extreme, Tommy Hearns' coach believed Hearns lost to Marvin Hagler because Hearns got a massage before the fight, which relaxed his legs too much. He may have been correct.

But there was too much exaggeration about it all. Turns out in actual practice most athletes benefit from diverse fitness routines, including careful weight lifting, swimming, yoga, stretching, anything that works muscles that are often neglected if we do only the thing we're most interested in.

If I don't stretch now before a ride I'm guaranteed to have muscle spasms on the first set of intervals or sprint up a short, steep hill. I stretch before, during and after.

I need to stretch before rides to loosen up the glutes and lower back. These aren't hard or extreme stretches, just warming up and activating those muscles that don't get used much other than during a ride.

During a ride, while riding, I'm often stretching my neck and shoulder, both of which have had many injuries. Occasionally I'll sit up to raise my arms overhead, behind my head and back, etc., especially when I catch myself hunching up my shoulders or feeling tension in the right arm and shoulder which is still recovering from an injury last year.

During a rest break I'll stretch the quads and calves, arches of the feet, back, neck, etc. This is all pretty easy stuff, nothing extreme. My feet in particular tend to cramp if I'm not wearing clipless shoes with stiff soles -- that's the main reason I use clipless on the road bike, and prefer soles with little or no flex. It pretty much eliminates arch spasms. As soon as I'm off the bike and take off the shoes, my right arch begins to cramp. And it often happens during casual rides on my hybrids wearing regular shoes. Lifelong problem, nothing new. I have long, skinny feet, like ice skates, and high arches.

I try to avoid working too much on the hamstrings though before and during rides. That comes later, after a ride or on an off day.

And I stretch every day, including rest days -- usually the only exercise I do on rest days. Lots of range of motion stuff too, just to stay loose.
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Old 02-17-19, 04:44 AM
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No.
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Old 02-17-19, 04:52 AM
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I have to be careful about stretching when running as everything seems to get tight. On the bike, however, I do zero stretching.
It’s difficult to say whether it will be necessary for an individual. Depends on your age and level of flexibility. Plenty of riders have trouble getting into an aero position due to lack of flexibility in their back.
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Old 02-17-19, 05:46 AM
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Almost never unless I am sore or muscles feel tight.
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Old 02-17-19, 07:24 AM
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nope...never
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Old 02-17-19, 07:46 AM
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Never have. That is why I like to take a few miles to warm up at the beginning of a ride.
Now if you have an area that is giving you some issues, then a post ride stretch is beneficial.

A few years back, I went on an early in the year ride and pushed a bit too hard. My feet felt real hot when we finished. I went home and took a short nap. When I awoke, I could not stand on my feet or bend them. Plantar fasciitis. Had I stretched my feet after the ride and before cooling down, it likely would have been minimized. YMMV
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Old 02-17-19, 08:12 AM
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Never.

Now that I'm older thought I think I need to start stretching, or maybe using a roller, after I ride. I think it will help with all of the muscle stiffness/soreness I experience the next day.

Trouble is, I'm usually too busy having a beer after my ride.
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Old 02-17-19, 08:20 AM
  #11  
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No I don't follow any stretching routines, I don't find it useful and I it doesn't do anything for me.....I do full body workouts few times per week and I also work at a physical labour job. All this moving around all day is enough to keep me flexible.
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Old 02-17-19, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
No and no.

If you like doing it, go ahead. I hate it, studies have shown it has nothing to do with cramping, and I think it's a waste of time.
I wish more people recognized this. It's annoying when, for example, everyone on my softball team wants me to stretch and all this nonsense. First, it's softball, not the olympics; second, and more importantly, it doesn't do anything for you.
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Old 02-17-19, 08:52 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Definitely NOT before.

During is all right and can be good on long rides to work the kinks out of the back and shoulders.

After ... is up to you. You're warmed up so it might be time to work on the hamstrings if you want.
Why not before? I think it depends on how intensely you stretch and for example, whether you bounce.
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Old 02-17-19, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
Why not before? I think it depends on how intensely you stretch and for example, whether you bounce.
I wish I had the links at hand, so I apologize that I don't - but I was reading some NYTimes article about current research showing data for injuries not being affected one way or another due to stretching, and other research demonstrating how stretching doesn't physically do anything for ligaments and tendons, BUT it does increase your tolerance for pain. In some studies, a loss in strength was associated with stretching.

Again, I apologize for the weasel-words ("some studies"), and lack of links to research. I can confidently say this is a growing area of study, with very little consensus on what is really happening when you "stretch".
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Old 02-17-19, 09:23 AM
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Cats and dogs stretch after every nap. I don't think the official conclusions of the various scientific studies will affect their stretching habits much. Or mine.

I can confidently say this is a growing area of study, with very little consensus on what is really happening when you "stretch".
Preserving your range of motion? Purging lactic acid from muscles? Preventing stiffness in muscles and joints? I just can't fathom how a person can ride a bike, but never stretch, I haven't been able to do that since my teens. But I only stretch during and after rides, before riding is not advised.
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Old 02-17-19, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
Cats and dogs stretch after every nap. I don't think the official conclusions of the various scientific studies will affect their stretching habits much. Or mine.



Preserving your range of motion? Purging lactic acid from muscles? Preventing stiffness in muscles and joints? I just can't fathom how a person can ride a bike, but never stretch, I haven't been able to do that since my teens. But I only stretch during and after rides, before riding is not advised.
Yeah, and a dog can lick his balls without much effort, and this has nothing to do with you or me riding a bike, or doing anything else. (lol)

We can ponder that for a while. In the meantime, here are a couple articles to chew on.

https://www.painscience.com/articles/stretching.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
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Old 02-17-19, 09:45 AM
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I'm flexible...from years of stretching so I have no need to stretch before I swim, bike or run. But I still stretch a few days a week. There's a quality difference between stretching pre-exercise to prevent injury and stretching to increase flexibility which ultimately will help prevent injuries. Since I'm flexible (comparatively speaking) I only stretch pre-exercise when I'm going to be performing certain exercises. But to increase and then maintain exceptional flexibility I'd have to stretch everyday 30 to 60 minutes. And I did that all through the '80s. Now I just do enough to maintain a reasonable amount of flexibility not the high level I was intent on achieving in the '80s. Sometimes when I haven't stretched and I feel tight I'll stretch. But I can't imagine going through life and feeling tight in an area and because I'd never stretch not realizing I need to stretch. Which leads me to the point that when you stretch on a regular bases you become more aware when you're pushing your muscles to a state of failure due to tightness/tears.
Bottom line, there's a reason gymnast, ballet dancers, football players, and CATS, stretch, it increases your range of motion thereby reducing their chance of injury. None of that you need to just ride a bike however stretching to improve your flexibility overall is definitely worth the time if done on a consistent almost daily basis.
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Old 02-17-19, 09:46 AM
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I stopped stretching before rides after I read some articles posted back in 2013-14 how it was bad for muscles/ligaments. Seemed counter-intuitive but "science" you know? I was in my late 20s so it didn't really seem to matter

I've always sorta had some, but this year especially I started experiencing issues I suspected were related to poor off-bike posture. I'm now in my mid-30s. I started doing a 30-second routine that includes a few different stretches for calves/back/pelvis/hamstrings. Stretch and hold for 30 seconds and then move to next stretch. Takes about 10 minutes and helps serve as a warm-up for my ride. Riding issues went away and I feel much better during my ride - including a 200 mile ride I did last weekend. Went much better than previously in part I suspect due to stretching heavily beforehand as well as during the ride itself.

For long distance riding I try to stretch and massage during the ride whenever I can, including coasting downhills. It makes a huge difference, something as simple as massaging forearms and hands a few times over the course of the first 6-8 hours can make things much more comfortable when hour 11-12 roll around.

So I like stretching before a ride, seems to work well for me. I also like to stretch on non-riding days when I wake-up in the morning. Helps get my body awake and seems to cut down on recovery time and delayed onset muscle soreness from very long or hard rides. Try it out, it'll be obvious before too long if it works for you or not.
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Old 02-17-19, 09:57 AM
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I enjoy stretching and I like the way it makes me feel. How it effects my strength and performance I couldn't tell you.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by texaspandj View Post
Sometimes when I haven't stretched and I feel tight I'll stretch. But I can't imagine going through life and feeling tight in an area and because I'd never stretch not realizing I need to stretch. Which leads me to the point that when you stretch on a regular bases you become more aware when you're pushing your muscles to a state of failure due to tightness/tears.
Bottom line, there's a reason gymnast, ballet dancers, football players, and CATS, stretch, it increases your range of motion thereby reducing their chance of injury. None of that you need to just ride a bike however stretching to improve your flexibility overall is definitely worth the time if done on a consistent almost daily basis.
Once you've experienced the benefits of improving flexibility, circulation, and range of motion in muscles, tendons, and joints, it's really tough to go back to a state of ignorance on the subject, though I'm sure it's possible.

My body naturally conforms to whatever activity I'm doing for more than a minute or two. Be that driving a car, riding a bike, sitting in front of a computer, bending over working on a bike, sitting in a recliner, posting on the internet, whatever. So I stretch to return back to a neutral position. I guess this doesn't happen to everyone, but it works for me, and there's no way I would ever go back to being stiff and contorted again. For me that would lead to almost-certain injury, like for example, the many injuries I read about here on an almost daily basis that require medical intervention.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:22 AM
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Stretching has not done much for me. But, myofascial release with a hard foam roller has been terrific for me. I usually do it before exercise but I think it works before or after.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:41 AM
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For those who swear by stretching: if the science shows stretching to not be effective, is there anything that would convince you otherwise? Or does the "it works for me" position overcome any and all forms of empirical evidence?

Consider the dog that barks at the postman. The postman goes away. What caused the postman to go away?
A: the barking. After all, it worked!
B: the postman was always going to leave, that's his route; the barking is irrelevant.

To the dog, the answer is A.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:44 AM
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The people mentioning the way that cats and dogs stretch are right---stretch as cats and dogs do, i.e., for a maximum of around 5 seconds, and only when you feel a natural urge to stretch. Otherwise, don't.

At 67, I've never stretched---other than when I yawn---and don't plan to start.
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Old 02-17-19, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by ridelikeaturtle View Post
For those who swear by stretching: if the science shows stretching to not be effective, is there anything that would convince you otherwise? Or does the "it works for me" position overcome any and all forms of empirical evidence?

Consider the dog that barks at the postman. The postman goes away. What caused the postman to go away?
A: the barking. After all, it worked!
B: the postman was always going to leave, that's his route; the barking is irrelevant.

To the dog, the answer is A.
You're aware that the NCBI link you posted seems to contradict your position?

SUMMARYThe benefits of stretching seem to be individual to the population studied. Several factors must be considered when making clinical recommendations from the literature. To increase ROM, all types of stretching are effective, although PNF-type stretching may be more effective for immediate gains. To avoid decrease in strength and performance that may occur in athletes due to static stretching before competition or activity, dynamic stretching is recommended for warm-up. Older adults over 65 years old should incorporate static stretching into an exercise regimen. A variety of orthopedic patients can benefit from both static and pre-contraction stretching, although patients with joint contractures do not appear to benefit from stretching.
Anyway, I don't need "the science" to prove anything. If I am riding singletrack and my lower back starts hurting, I stand on the pedals to stretch my calves and the pain subsides for a time. Your position is that there is an article I can read or a chart I can look at that will prove my back is still hurting?
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Old 02-17-19, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
You're aware that the NCBI link you posted seems to contradict your position?

Anyway, I don't need "the science" to prove anything. If I am riding singletrack and my lower back starts hurting, I stand on the pedals to stretch my calves and the pain subsides for a time. Your position is that there is an article I can read or a chart I can look at that will prove my back is still hurting?
No, that's not the point, and if I was being cynical I'd assume you already knew that.

It's good you've found a way to temporarily alleviate your lower back pain.
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