How valid is stretching as a warm-up?


Why are we trying to warm-up? Many people are a bit  vague about what the “warm-up” is supposed to achieve. To clarify the issue, lets say that a “warm-up” at the very least should increase tissue temperature, as warm muscles function better than cold ones. “Warming up” should also have an element of getting the body ready for the activity that is to come. In other words, getting neurologically responsive and coordinated.

Then there is the confusion about the many different types of stretching:

  • Your basic static stretch – stretching a muscle and holding it for a while
  • Various “advanced” types of stretching, which usually contain a component of contracting the muscle before stretching it
  • Dynamic stretching (involves rapid bouncing in and out of a stretched position)

At what point is a “stretch”  actually “something else”?. Lets assume that by “stretching” we are referring to an activity that puts a muscle group into a stretch and involves at least holding it there for a few seconds. By this definition a whole lot of the so called “advanced” stretching techniques are actually not stretches at all.

Now lets look at how well “stretching” achieves the first goal of “increasing tissue temperature”:

Body heat is generated by metabolic activity, in particular muscle contraction. So by stretching alone, you will not achieve the goal of “increasing tissue temperature”.

What about the second goal “getting neurologically responsive and coordinated?

Randomly stretching your muscles in different directions is probably not the best strategy to achieve this goal. It is also a fact that soft tissue stretching (like touching your toes to stretch your hamstrings) is a learned skill and doesn’t carry over into other activities like running for instance.


The best type of warm-up is probably just to start your activity slowly and gently, moving your body in the ways and directions that you will be moving it during your sport or activity. In other words, your warm-up should be SPECIFIC.

If you want to jog or sprint, start by walking and walking lunges. A 2014 study even suggested that a pre-run stretch could do more harm than good, because the temporary lengthening of the muscle fibres “reduced the capacity of the muscle to produce explosive force”.

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