Against Stretching

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  • 8/17/2019 Against Stretching


    T h e   A r g u m e n t A g a i n s t S t a t i c S t r e t c h i n g

    B e f o r e S p o r t   a n d   P h y s i c a l A c t i v i t y

    MARK S. KOVACS, MEd, CSCS, USATF II • University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa


    JTreexercise static stretching has been used

    by coaches and athletes for decades in the

    hope of improving performance and prevent-

    ing injuries. The scientific literature of the

    1980s and 1990s suggested that preexercise

    static stretching was a good addition to ath-

    letes' warm-up before initiation of physical

    activity.''^ This article reviews the current

    literature and provides information to pro-

    pose a valid argument

    against the widely held

    belief that slow static

    stretching before sport

    and physical activity is


    S t a t i c s t r e t c h i n g h a s b e e n u s e d

      a s


    w a r m - u p a c t i v i t y f o r d e c a d e s , w i t h o u t a n y

    c r e d i b l e r e s e a r c h t o s u p p o r t i t s b e n e f i t s f o r

    p e r f o r m a n c e o r i n j u r y p r e v e n t i o n .

    S t a t i c s t r e t c h i n g b e f o r e a c t i v i t y r e d u c e s

    p e r fo r m a n c e i n s t r e n g t h , s p e e d , a n d p o w e r

    a c t i v i t i e s .

    S t a t i c s t r e t c h i n g b e f o r e a c t i v i t y d o e s n o t

    a p p e a r t o r e d u c e i n j u r y .

    K e y w o r d s : f l e x i b i l i t y , p e r f o r m a n c e , r a n g e

    o f m o t io n , w a r m - u p


    Despite early evidence

    that s tatic stretching

    before activity did not

    improve performance,'

    it remains a common

    element of warm-up

    routines for physical

    activity. Contrary to the

    widely held belief that static stretching

    improves physical performance, numerous

    studies have demonstrated that traditional

    static stretching actually decreases perfor-

    mance in activities that require strength,

    speed, and power.^'' ' Depth-jump perfor-

    mance, a good indicator of power output,

    has been shown to be significantly reduced

    after static stretch ing, •'' as has vertical-jump

    heig ht.'^' Studies of strength and power

    have demonstrated performance decreases

    of as much as

      30%.'' '^' ' ' '


    -extension maximal performance (1-R

    me asured 10 min after static stretching w

    reduced by 7 .3% and 8.1 %, respectiv

    Avela et al.'^ and Fov^/les et al.' found re

    tions in maximal isometric plantar-flex

    torque abou t the ankle joint after the pla

    flexors were passively stretched (23.2


    2 8 ,  respectively).

    The deficit in performance after s

    stretching might depend on the type

    stretching and mode of activity that

    lows the stretching routine. The deficit

    been shown to last approximately 60

    after completion of the stretching rou

    and might be a result of changes in re

    sensitivity, muscle/tendon stiffness, or

    romuscular activation.'•'̂ •'̂ •'* The positiv

    negative effect on performance after s

    stretching might depend on the speed

    movement required by the activity In

    study, a preactivity static-stretching rou

    had no effect on either the speed or

    accuracy of an explosive tennis serve,'

    preactivity stretching might not decr

    performance of high-speed or accur

    related movements. Another study d

    onstrated that significant reductions

    isokinetic strength were only evident at

    velocities (< 2.62 radian/s).^


     recent s

    found, however, that static stretching sig

    cantly reduced sprinting performance

    a 20-m distance.' The results of num e

    studies have demonstrated that preac

    ity static stretching reduces performa

    in activities requiring strength, speed,

     D   2 0 0 6 H u m a n K in e ti cs


    A T T   1 1 3 ) ,

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  • 8/17/2019 Against Stretching


    Injury Prevention

    addition to the widespread misconception that pre-

      a second

     as an

      important preactivity ritual


     it reduces the likelihood of subsequent

     on the idea that a  tight

    scle-te ndo n unit is less extensible without stretch-

      its tolerance  for elongation

     has resulted  in a

     of injury,'̂ '̂ ^

    A  study of lower limb injuries amo ng 1,538 m ale

    ct on injury ra tes after a 12-week stretching

    ocol,^ A 2001 system atic review of experimen-

     and quasi-experimental studies pertaining to the


      lower limb running injuries analyzed

     of  five studies, with 1,944 par

     in stretching-intervention groups and 3,159


      control groups,


      reported that


     is available to support tbe notion tha t

    ty stretching exercises are effective In prevent-

    Some experimental studies have shown a reduction

    njury rates when preactivity stretching was included

      A study of high school football


     reduction in

    uries amo ng players who participated in





     not participate




     routine,̂ A limita-

      in the


     of tbe



      this study

    a lack of distinction between the effect  of general

      tbe effect  of tbe static-


     retrospective case-control study


      sprinters who


     never experienced ham-

    coaches and athletic trainers who assume that


     hamstring flexibility

      the injuries, Tbe injury might have been the

    use of the  hamstring weakness and lack of hamstring

    A lthough tbe results of a few studies have suggested

    k between preactivity stretching and reduced injury

    tbe majority of the relevant research evidence





     concept,* Tbe etiologies



    sports injuries involve multiple complex factors. Flex-

    ibility is one


      numerous factors that can affect injury

    susceptibility. Both fatigue^* and volume of activity

    have been suggested as predisposing factors for muscle

    injury.  ore research is needed to identify tbe underlying

    causes of exercise-induced muscle and tendon injuries,

    from which we can develop guidelines for training and

    competition to reduce the likelihood of injury.

    Prac tica l pp lications a nd Sugg estions

    The existing research literature collectively indicates

    tbat static stretching witbin an  bour before practice

    or competition d oes not improve siports performance,

    nor does








      injury. Poor

    muscle strength  and  limited joint range of motion,

    however, might reduce performance and increase the



      injury,^® Clearly, athletic trainers should


    scribe static-stretching routines for som e a thletes, but

    stretching before sport practice sessions and competi-

    tive events is not advisable,


     better time for athletes

    to perform static stretcbing is after sports activity^'' or

    in tbe evenings. Performing stretcbing activities at the

    en d




      after practice sessions provides





      motion similar



    from performing them a t otber times,''° Other warm-up

    activities, including general musck;-warming exercises

    and dynamic (i,e,, active) range-of-motion exercises,

    might be m ost beneficial in improving pbysical perfor-

    mance,' ' ^ Although adequate research evidence is

    not yet available


      definitively recommend dynamic



    Warm up

    10 minutes building

    from light to






    Cooi down

    5-10 minutes slow






    Warm up

    * 3-5 minutes slow

    S ta t i c

    10-20 minutes on  s t r e t c h i n g

    speafic musdiis

    used during actii/lty


    minutes on ail




    on sport and

    level of


    Figure  Daily stretching routine.

    '18,  19, 22, 24, 25, 27-29, 34, 35,


    MAY 2006

  • 8/17/2019 Against Stretching


    range-of-motion warm-up exercises, significantly faster

    20-m sprint performance after dynamic  range of

    motion warm-up has been reported,^ Athletes might

    benefit from dynamic warm-up exercises before

    activity, with traditional static-stretching exercises

    performed at the conclusion of physical activity, I

     eferen es

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      Smith CA, The warm -up p roce dure : to stretch or not to stretch, a brief


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      ark ovacs  is a doctoral student in human performance at th

    versity of Alabama and a Level II sprints coach with USA Track

    Field, His research is focused on optimizing human performanc

    8 1 MAY 2 6

  • 8/17/2019 Against Stretching