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Post-exercise Stretching: Separating Theory from Fact

Why do we stretch at the end of a workout? Some people skip it altogether. What are they missing? If you are like many of us, you have been told that stretching will prevent sore muscles or increase range of motion

On the other hand, those skipping stretching express concern that the stretching may reduce strength or power. To help clarify these issues, a group of researchers from institutes and universities out of Portugal and Chile recently published an ambitious systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the subjects. Here are their conclusions from the science.

Strength Recovery: Post-exercise stretching showed no effect on strength recovery compared to passive recovery.

Soreness: Post-exercise stretching showed no effect on delayed-onset soreness compared to passive recovery.

Range of Motion (ROM): Despite all their research and studying, information in terms of recovery of ROM after different recovery protocols was insufficient to run a meta-analysis. There is not enough research to prove or disprove the effects of post-exercise stretching on recovery of ROM.


Loss of strength or power may not be a good reason to skip post-exercise stretching, but avoiding soreness may not be a good reason to do it. Improving range of motion makes a lot of sense. We use stretching as part of treatments to help patients overcome a variety of conditions. We like stretching, but when it comes to post-exercise stretching to improve ROM after your general workout, the science backing your position may be yet to come. 


Afonso J, Clemente FM, Nakamura FY, Morouço P, Sarmento H, Inman RA, Ramirez-Campillo R. The effectiveness of post-exercise stretching in short-term and delayed recovery of strength, range of motion and delayed onset muscle soreness: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Frontiers in Physiology. 2021 May 5;12:553.

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