A lot of people believe that stretching will stop muscle growth or that it will cause you to lose muscle. Is there any truth in this? NO! But during my research into this article I stumbled across a research paper which reveals a secret stretching technique to ENHANCE muscle growth!
You don’t want to miss this.
But before we get into the meat of the article, let’s just clear up a few key terms:
Dynamic stretches are active movements of the limbs where joints and muscles move through a full range of motion. For example: arm circles, trunk twists, leg swings.
Static stretches are where you hold a stretch for a period of time without movement. For example: head to knee forward bend, overhead triceps stretch.
Stretching Before Lifting Weights
I wonder whether it’s the title of this video from the ever-popular Jeff Cavaliere that has caused people to ask the question does stretching kill gains?
This guy has got a serious following – around 2.6 million subscribers to his YouTube channel! It’s well-deserved too, as he puts out a ton of great content.
But I’m sure many people have read the click-bait title of the video, yet haven’t gone on to listen to what Jeff actually says.
This would explain why there are so many people on online forums, panicking and asking whether stretching stops muscle growth.
So take a few minutes to watch the video and we’ll summarize the key takeaways below.
In summary Jeff tells us what many of us already know:
- No static stretching before lifting.
- Dynamic stretching is OK for our warm up before lifting.
- Go through some warm-up sets of the exercises you will be doing before progressing to your max lifts.
Point number 2 is something of an understatement.
This study from 2012 looking at the effect of dynamic stretching on quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility puts to bed the notion that stretching before a workout kills your gains.
It found that:
“The [dynamic warm up] significantly improved eccentric quadriceps strength and hamstrings flexibility…”
So whatever you do, DO NOT skip dynamic stretches before your workout.
OK, so we’ve learnt that not only will dynamic stretching before a workout not harm your gains, but it will potentially INCREASE your gains!
But what about stretching after lifting weights?
Stretching After Lifting Weights
It’s universally accepted that stretching after exercise is beneficial.
Bodybuilding and weightlifting authorities have been telling us for decades that static stretching should be done after every workout!
But occasionally the accepted science or conventional wisdom gets turned on its head with the availability of new research.
That’s not the case this time however.
When researching for another article, I found this study which establishes that stretching enhances blood flow and promotes blood vessel health.
This made an impact on me.
Recently, I was shocked when a family friend who’s in his early fifties and a very active sports person and gym goer had to have arterial stents.
I couldn’t believe it as he’s a muscular guy who always seemed in good shape.
But as I’ve been researching this series of articles on stretching, I was amazed to learn that intense resistance based exercise contributes to the stiffening of our arteries.
It stands to reason therefore that stretching is most definitely something you want to do post weight-lifting workout.
Not only will the enhanced blood flow during static stretching help to shuttle nutrients into the muscle, but it will help reduce and remove lactic acid.
Crucially however, it will help to negate the stiffening effect on our arteries from all that lifting.
This knowledge has caused me to completely change my exercise priorities – but we’ll come on to that later…
Stretching Between Sets
Are you ready to have your mind blown?
I found a review paper from May 2020 which had the promising title Does stretch training induce muscle hypertrophy in humans?
I was expecting the findings to be based around the two obvious scenarios we’ve already looked at: stretching before or after working out.
But I was staggered to read that of 5 studies where stretching was considered as part of a resistance training program:
“2 applied the stretching in the interset rest period and were the ones that showed enhanced muscle growth.”
Interset rest period?
I’ve NEVER performed stretching in between sets!
The review paper concludes that on the admittedly limited evidence of just 2 scientific studies, that stretching between sets may elicit muscle hypertrophy.
This study entitled Interset Stretching vs. Traditional Strength Training: Effects on Muscle Strength and Size in Untrained Individuals from 2019 supports these conclusions, albeit with the following caveat:
“Although our findings might suggest a benefit of adding [inter set stretching] into [traditional strength training] for optimizing muscle hypertrophy, our data are not sufficient enough to conclude that [inter set stretching] is superior to [traditional strength training] for inducing muscle hypertrophic adaptations.”
The participants who were in the interset stretching group performed 30 seconds of static stretching between sets.
Regardless of the lack of corroborating studies supporting inter set stretching, it certainly seems to be worthy of further exploration.
In my own routine, given that my primary focus is currently on stretching and cardio-vascular health, I’m certainly going to make a practice of interset stretching.
Get Your Stretch On
So there you have it: will stretching kill your gains? NO!
In fact, it will potentially do the OPPOSITE!
We’ve established, based on the available science, that we should be stretching BEFORE, DURING and AFTER our workout!
I have to admit that when I started researching this article, this wasn’t the conclusion I was expecting to come to!
Not only could stretching potentially save your life by helping you avoid heart problems, but it could also enhance your muscle gains.
Why wouldn’t you make stretching a priority in your own workout regime?
If you’ve enjoyed this article but are left wondering how to incorporate a safe and effective stretching routine into your life, then check out our review of the Hyperbolic Stretching Program.
You’ll see how I went from being as flexible as a plank of wood, having not touched my toes for nearly a decade, to the most flexible I’ve EVER been in just 14 days.
Read our review of the Hyperbolic Stretching Program and learn how we got flexible fast.