Stretching is not the warm-up and injury prevention tool that many have made it out to be. Alternatively, stretching may not even be superior to just lifting through a full range of motion for flexibility. But can stretching be an effective muscle building alternative to resistance training assuming it’s done at a high enough intensity?
What did they test? The authors compared the effects of long-lasting intense stretching to traditional resistance training on muscle hypertrophy and strength.
What did they find? Long-lasting intense stretching resulted in similar muscle as resistance training. However, the stretching group trained for 7 hours a week, whereas the resistance training group trained for 45 minutes per week.
What does it mean for you? Although long-lasting stretching may result in muscle size increases, the time and discomfort required for it to be effective don’t make it a solid alternative to traditional resistance training.
What’s the Problem?
We’ve covered stretching in detail in previous REPS issues. From whether stretching can be a recovery tool to stretching versus lifting for flexibility, REPS has done its stretching research due diligence. Stretching appears to be fine for flexibility and won’t impact your gains as much as some people have made it out to, but it’s not an injury prevention tool or some magical recovery modality that you must include in your training protocol.
Check out our previous REPS articles for a proper deep dive into stretching.
However, something we have not covered extensively yet is whether certain forms of stretching can lead to hypertrophy gains. A previous review of the literature by Nunes et al 1 on stretching and muscle hypertrophy in humans, noted that extreme forms of stretching done at a high level of discomfort and often loaded may result in hypertrophy. However, at the time of the review, ie, 3ish years ago, the evidence for stretch-mediated hypertrophy was limited, which warranted further research before we could explore its potential practical applications.