If you have a trainer or coach you may have been told already – dynamic stretching pre workout, and static stretching post workout. What you may not know is why, or when there are exceptions to this ‘rule’?
The basis of these statements are from research that showed static stretching decreased power and speed (Haddad et al., 2014; Perrier, Pavol, & Hoffman, 2011) and reduced muscle contraction activity (Brandedburg, 2006). On it’s own this suggests that if you were to stretch statically (i.e. hold a muscle on stretch for a prolonged period) prior to a workout or competing, you would have reduced force outputs and lower drive/motivation. Not great.
Newer research suggests this isn’t so black and white – when is anything that simple? A study done recently on the effects of static stretching before a 3km run showed no significant performance differences, despite differences in muscle activation (Damasceno et al., 2014). Other reviews suggest if the static stretching is shorter in duration (<90sec) and less aggressive (not to the point of pain) the negative impairments are reduced or non-existent (Behm & Chaouachi, 2011).
This leaves us asking “So does it even matter?”
The good news is we have an alternative. A different way of stretching that has been shown to increase our range of movement whilst not changing the neural drive to the muscle being stretched. No reduction in power. No potential drop in performance. The alternative is… DYNAMIC STRETCHING!
Hardly ground breaking, but so many people still spend ages static stretching pre workout when they could be actively warming up and stretching at the same time. Check out the video below to see a simple approach to dynamic stretching – all major muscle groups are targeted and you can complete the entire body in about 5 minutes.
We use static stretching post training, when power outputs and force no longer matter. Even better, do your longer static stretching as a totally separate session at least twice per week.
Exceptions to the rules? If something is so tight that it is preventing proper technique or safe form, or even causing pain during exercise, static stretching may be required. However, even in these instances a more effective approach could be proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Watch out for our article on this soon!
NOTE: this is not ballistic stretching (i.e. bouncing at the end ranges of a muscle, which unless you’re well trained/ a pro gymnast is likely to cause injury). Keep moving through large ranges under control and don’t hold the stretch at any point.
Behm, D. G., & Chaouachi, A. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European journal of applied physiology,111(11), 2633.
Damasceno, M. V., Duarte, M., Pasqua, L. A., Lima-Silva, A. E., MacIntosh, B. R., & Bertuzzi, R. (2014). Static Stretching Alters Neuromuscular Function and Pacing Strategy, but Not Performance during a 3-Km Running Time-Trial. PloS one, 9(6), e99238.
Haddad, M., Dridi, A., Chtara, M., Chaouachi, A., Wong, D. P., Behm, D., & Chamari, K. (2014). Static stretching can impair explosive performance for at least 24 hours. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(1), 140-146.
Perrier, E. T., Pavol, M. J., & Hoffman, M. A. (2011). The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1925-1931.
Guest Author: Alex Adams BSc, ASCC, CSCS
Alex has worked in the fitness industry for 11 years, working with clients ranging from elite athletes to general population. Currently based at Performance Pro in London, Alex coaches olympic weightlifting and strength and conditioning as well as presenting and tutoring on both subjects.