As far as I can remember, stretching is something that’s always taught to be done before and after one engages in exercise. 

Whether it’s the physical education classes during my schooldays or physical training during my national service (NS) days – as long as you’re doing physical activity, you’ve got to stretch before and after. 

Stretching is important to do before and after exercise, right? I mean, there has to be some benefit since we’ve been doing it for the longest time and most people still feel that it’s a necessary part of their workout routine.

Every once in a while, we get asked by new clients what stretches should they do before training and whether they need stretch thereafter. They’re usually surprised when we answer them that it’s not necessary. Turns out, stretching doesn’t provide the value you think it does, and it can even be counterproductive in some situations. 

Myth: stretching helps you to warmup  

Most people usually do some kind of stretching before they start their exercise routine.

We’ve all heard it many times before: stretching warms you up for your activity, helps you avoid injury, reduces soreness and improves recovery. Some say it even helps with performance.

Just to be clear, warm-ups and stretching are not the same thing. 

Warmups serve a dual purpose: it prepares your tissues and joints for the forthcoming physical activity and also serves as movement pattern practice for your activity when you warm up with the same movement pattern that you will be doing but at a lower intensity before ramping up to working sets for that day. 

Stretching doesn’t do any of these. I think most people have mixed up these two terms, leading to mistakenly assigning the benefits of warmups to stretching.

So what exactly is stretching? 

Static vs dynamic stretching 

Stretching is typically divided into two types, static and dynamic. 

Static stretching is when the muscles are lengthened to its end range of motion (ROM) and held for an extended period of time. For most people, this is what they mean by stretching.

Dynamic stretching involves moving joints and muscles through its full ROM and repeating it several times e.g. arm swings or high knees. Actually, I’d argue that dynamic stretching isn’t really stretching but rather a form of warm up. While this can be useful to warm up your tissues and joints for the forthcoming physical activity, it may not specifically prepare the muscles and joints that will be used in the way that it’ll be used for your activity.

Is stretching beneficial for training? 

In most scenarios, the short answer is no. 

If you’re used to doing static stretches before you start your training, you might want to stop doing that. Many studies have shown clear evidence that short duration static stretching had no effect on muscle performance (Kay & Blazevich, 2012).

More importantly, it has been found that holding a static stretch for more than 60 seconds had a negative impact on a muscle’s ability to produce force (which is pretty much needed in every form of physical activity) (Kay & Blazevich, 2012). A stretched muscle will normally trigger a neural reflex to resist muscle tearing. When you hold a stretch for a prolonged period (more than 60 seconds), this reflex can get inhibited, allowing the muscle-tendon unit to lengthen with minimal resistance from the muscles and connective tissues (Anning, n.d.). Consequently, the lack of neural activation and greater muscle compliance means that the contractile force and speed of muscle fibre activation decreases, reducing overall force production.  

How about stretching for flexibility, which is the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through its full ROM? If your activity of choice requires you to be very flexible, like a gymnast or ballet dancer, then you do need to stretch to increase your flexibility.

However, if you’re not engaging in an activity that requires you to be very flexible, increasing your flexibility beyond the requirements of your activity will lead to negative returns. Being too flexible can make you more susceptible to sprains and strains (Belluz, 2016).

More stretching questions answered

Over the years that I’ve been coaching, these are the questions that clients typically ask about stretching: 

Should I stretch before training? 

If you can perform the basic barbell lifts to the ROM required, then you don’t need to do any form of stretching before a session.

But if you can’t, for example, you can’t get under the bar on a squat because your shoulders are “tight” (more commonly seen with older guys), then stretching them out before getting under the bar can be useful. 

After you’ve done your stretches for the shoulder, get under the bar and start warming up for your squat.

The best way to warm up for any activity that you’re about to perform is the activity itself done at a lower intensity. All the muscles, joints and connective tissue that will be used for the activity will be used during the warm ups. At the same time, you also get to practice the movement. You’ll find that as your warm up sets for your squat go along and you get warmed up, your shoulder flexibility will gradually increase as well. This is how you should do your warm up sets for your barbell lifts. 

Does stretching prevent soreness? 

Nope. Stretching will not be helpful whatsoever in alleviating or reducing soreness. Being smart with your programming and recovery will. 

For more about soreness and what it is, check this out.

Does stretching prevent injury?

Nope, it doesn’t. Prevention of injury is managed by proper programming and adequate recovery (Eckard et al., 2018).

Instead, focus on warming up appropriately as it can contribute to prevention of injury.

Actually, you might be surprised to know that barbell training has lower injury rates than most fitness activities.

Does stretching improve recovery? 

Nope, it doesn’t. There are two main things for recovery – eating properly and getting sufficient sleep. Get these right, and you’ll be as recovered as you can be naturally. 

Does stretching improve performance? 

Nope. As mentioned above, static stretching has been found to decrease force production. If your performance is dependent on you being able to produce force, static stretching before the activity is detrimental.

Performance is really only improved by training hard consistently over time with proper programming and making sure you’re eating and sleeping well to recover from the training stress.

Stretching can feel good, but isn’t necessary 

With all that being said, stretching can feel pretty good. If it’s something that helps you relax or “cool down” after your training, go for it.

Otherwise, because stretching isn’t actually useful, if you’re looking to save time in the gym, one way is to just stop stretching. 

We’re not telling you not to stretch, the only thing we recommend against is static stretching before training. We’re just letting you know that it doesn’t provide the benefits that you thought it did. If you enjoy doing it and makes you feel good, carry on. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it helps your training. 


Kay, A. D., & Blazevich, A. J. (2012). Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: A systematic review. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659901

Anning, J. H. (n.d.). Influence of pre-exercise stretching on force production. Retrieved from www.fullwindup.com/Influence-of-Pre-Exercise-Stretching-on-Force-Production.pdf

Belluz, J. (2016, August 10). Why being as flexible as an Olympic gymnast isn’t necessarily a good thing. Vox. Retrieved from www.vox.com/2016/8/3/12299512/rio-olympics-2016-athletes-flexibility-health

Eckard, T. G., et al. (2018). The relationship between training load and injury in athletes: A systematic review. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29943231


My interest in fitness started when I was around 19 years old. Being overweight for most of my growing up years, I decided to do something about it. After months of not being able to achieve the desired results, I began poring through books and articles about training and nutrition. The more I read, the more interested I became in this field, and got better results when the the newly discovered knowledge was applied. After 1 year of persistence and hard work, I lost 24kg and felt fantastic. The sense of achievement motivated me to pursue a career in working with people to help them achieve their own fitness goals.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I tried a variety of training programs for a few years, looking for a new goal to train towards. After aimlessly moving around from program to program, I chanced upon a book called Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, written by renowned strength and conditioning expert, Mark Rippetoe. Little did I know that this book was about to change my life and coaching career.

At that point, I had experience training with barbells and was relatively familiar with it but never have I come across any material that gave such explicitly detailed explanations of how to perform the barbell lifts. I devoured the book and modified my lifting technique and program. In just a few months, I was pleasantly surprised by how much stronger he had become. I now had a new goal to work towards – getting strong.

With full confidence in the efficacy of the Starting Strength methodology, I began coaching my clients using this program and got them stronger than they ever thought was possible. The consistent success my clients achieved through the program cemented my confidence in Mark Rippetoe’s teachings. I then decided to pursue the credential of being a Starting Strength Coach and I’m currently the first and only certified coach in Singapore and South-East Asia

In my 9 years of experience, I have given talks and ran programs at numerous companies and worked with a diverse group clientele of all ages with a variety of goals. Today, I specialise in coaching people in their 40s, 50s and beyond because it brings me a great sense of satisfaction to be part of the process of improving this demographics’ health and quality of life by getting them stronger.