I've read one of the research reports (Herbert et al. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. British Medical Journal. 2002). All Herbert and his mate, Gabriel did was look at the results of other studies - without saying just how bad they were.
'The first study investigated effects of supervised stretching of calf muscles before exercising (two stretches of soleus and gastrocnemius muscles for 20 seconds on each limb, total stretch time 160 seconds).'
If the feet are out of alignment, if the upper and lower leg bones are out of alignment, if the pelvis is out of alignment, 20 seconds of calf stretching to avoid soreness is about as useful as a hip pocket on a singlet.
'The second study investigated effects of supervised stretching of six muscle groups in the lower limbs before exercising (one 20 second stretch to each muscle group on each limb, total stretch time 240 seconds.)'
At least more muscles were being stretched but the time was grossly inadequate to have much of an effect. No wonder this regime didn't work.
'Total stretch time per session varied from 300 seconds to 600 seconds, with the exception of one study in which total stretch time was only 80 seconds.'
'This systematic review finds clear evidence from five studies of nominally moderate quality that stretching before or after exercising has no effect on delayed onset muscle soreness.'
Well at least Herbert and Gabriel had the decency to say the studies were of 'nominally moderate quality.' What he should have said was they were of dreadful quality.
'Conclusions: Stretching before or after exercising does not confer protection from muscle soreness. Stretching before exercising does not seem to confer a practically useful reduction in the risk of injury, but the generality of this finding needs testing. Insufficient research has been done with which to determine the effects of stretching on sporting performance.'
Read it again. The 'generality of this finding needs testing.' The last sentence says it all. 'Insufficient research has been done ...' Add to that 'insufficient quality research has been done.'
Can you believe that the sporting world is now running around using this evidence as gospel?
Herbert and Gabriel have produced a very tawdry report. Basing the findings on the effectiveness of stretching as a method of reducing injury or muscles soreness on a stretching regime that takes 20 seconds if definitely baloney.
Anyone who knows anything about stretching (loosening) knows that 20 seconds is useless. In that time the muscles doesn't even get the message that it's safe to loosen off.
The other flaw in the report is that it takes no consideration of the effect of constant, daily, extended loosening off of ALL the major muscles of the body associated with keeping the skeleton in good alignment and facilitating propulsion and locomotion.
If I were running an elite athlete program I'd make the athletes do at least an hour of yoga a day and probably have them working at the barre for the same amount of time.
This is a research report that never should have been given the light of day, let alone be used to bag the benefits of a regular, systematic and extended muscle loosening program.
20 seconds, bah humbug.