It has been almost twenty years since it was proven that stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent injury. The practice of stretching before activity is still really common. It has hung around long after it has been disproved, in a similar way that RICE has been disproved but is still common practice (as discussed in my blog) .
One of the lead researchers in stretching is Professor Rob Herbert, who was my tutor at the University of Sydney. You can check out a great summary of his work here.
Does stretching help you perform better? We can be fairly certain that static stretching immediately before an activity isn’t going to help you perform better at it. However, over a long period, you may perform better at activities that require flexibility.
But what about stretching for flexibility? We’re not completely sure that it has a lasting effect. It seems that the people who ARE flexible and do a lot of stretching (like ballet dancers, gymnast) may just be blessed genetically. We know that stretching can help ordinary folk tolerate the stretched position more. That can help you feel more flexible.
The one thing we do know, is that warming up can prevent injury. So skip the stretch if you want to. (Do it if you like though!). But make sure you get warm first!