Stretching after Exercise: Does It Do More Harm than Good?

People tend to stretch for a plethora of reasons – it’s good and feels nice, it’s part of a pre-workout activity, or because our muscles seem to be stiff and/or sore, and we think stretching may fix that, if we do it right.

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The latest research shows that all the things we know about stretching are totally wrong and proves that the assumptions many athletes and people going in for sports accept are incorrect. In fact, stretching can do the opposite of what it is advocated for:

  • It doesn’t prevent injuries;
  • It decreases the amount of strength if done before the workout;
  • It doesn’t stop muscle soreness, but on the contrary, it may make your muscles sore.

But before we plunge into our own research and answer the question whether a post-exercise stretching routine is good or bad for a person’s health, let’s see the difference between recovery and flexibility stretch.


Recovery stands for returning what was lost during the training. However, most people allow some additional meaning for recovery after exercise, meaning it will not only return the lost but also enhance the function of the muscles.

The goal of post-exercise stretching is to reduce muscle stiffness and soreness. The velocity of RBC, the blood flow, and capillary region oxygenation were seen to decrease during stretching but immediately after it, the blood flow increases significantly reaching and extending its levels. So despite the effectiveness of static post-workout stretching in reducing the flow, it is quickly elevated afterwards.

What concerns muscle soreness, the results of lots of research showed the positive influence of stretching, though, most of it was of average quality, and its results may not be taken into account.

According to another significant analysis that included over 2,500 people, post-exercise stretching reduced muscle soreness by only 1-4%. Thus, it has either little or no effect at all.


Most people workout to remodel and lose excess weight. This is where stretching routine may come in handy.

Static stretching after exercise can be effective in increasing, promoting or developing the flexibility in the joints, according to a number of studies. The only disadvantage is the lack of information as to the mechanism of its action.

The main mistake athletes and coaches make after the workout is thinking that stretching will restore the ranges of motion they had before the workout rather than improve their flexibility.

Some research has also suggested that stretching is able to improve stretch tolerance, while its effect on the improvement of tissue extensibility is doubtful.

Another study claimed that in addition to changing the structures of the muscle-tendon, static stretching does a good job in decreasing neural excitability by 16-88%.

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Bottom Line: To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

Everything depends on your workout goals. If you are an athlete who is trying to speed up muscle recovery, increase the levels of strength and decrease the chance of injury prior to your competition, then stretching will only impair your overall well-being and do more harm than you expect.

If you aim at losing weight, improving mood, shaping your body and increasing flexibility, post-exercise stretching will be the perfect ending to your workout that will help remodel your muscles, enhance the blood flow, improve the state of your joints and strengthen the connective tissues.

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