Following on from my previous two posts discussing the ineffectiveness of foam rollers and effectiveness of compression garments I thought that I would talk about post exercise stretching. Active recovery is another universally adopted recovery method that shows little promise. AR involves performing low intensity exercises immediately after working out and throughout your recovery period. It does not – necessarily – require the use of additional equipment, only the athletes own body.
A study was conducted into the physiological and psychological effect of active recovery on muscle recuperation (Suzuki et al, 2004). The research found that “the addition of low intensity exercise to the rest period did not adversely affect physiological recovery”. The test methods employed were highly quantifiable and provide a very good level of accuracy. A 10 ml blood sample was taken from a forearm vein of all participants. Creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase (the industry standards for quantifying muscle damage/recovery) were measured. Along with glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase and glutamate pyruvate transaminase. These are all enzymes that get released into blood circulation when muscle damage occurs. The experiment only involved 15 participants and therefore – in my opinion – does not conclusively disprove the effectiveness of active recovery. Despite the apparent accuracy of the results. However trends started to emerge with further reading, all pointing towards the same conclusion.
In 1989 it was concluded that “post-exercise static stretching did not alleviate exercise-induced DOMS either acutely or chronically” (Buroker and Schwane, 1989). A study conducted in 1994 tested the “Effect of Stretching on the Intensity of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”. The experiment was more qualitative and tested pain thresholds and not the presence of any given chemical in the blood stream. The results are therefore less reliable and again the sample size was small, however a cumulative effect is occurring. The study concluded that “a stretching protocol, performed before or after eccentric exercise, does not reduce DOMS” (Wessel and Wan, 1994).
These consistently negative results seem to prove that post exercise active recovery is not an effective mechanism for reducing muscle soreness.