From the time I began playing youth sports through high school, college, and beyond, we were encouraged to stretch prior to exercising, practicing, or playing. I guess we thought — and were taught — stretching before activity helped us to “get loose” in order to maximize our performance. As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Although I still see lots of athletes and teams stretching before practices and games, today’s research overwhelmingly advises us to avoid it. Stretching elongates and relaxes muscle, reduces strength and power production in the short-term, and does not necessarily reduce the incidence of injury.
In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article titled, Experience in Resistance Training Does Not Prevent Reduction in Muscle Strength Evoked by Passive Static Stretching, Serra and colleagues state that “the passive static stretching program was detrimental to upper- and lower-body maximal muscle strength performance in several body segments. The negative effects of stretching were similar for subjects participating in resistance training regimens.”
The study presented and confirmed 2 key issues:
- The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
- Resistance training experience does not prevent the maximal strength reduction caused by stretching before exercise.
Dynamic warm-up (movement prep) — a strategy that involves utilizing the same types of movements during your warm-up that you will use during exercise, practice, and/or game situations — has been shown to better prepare muscles for activity, by actually potentiating force production.
But don’t give up on stretching, altogether. Along with hydration and nutrition, a good stretch — or foam roll massage — is just what your body needs after your workout, practice, or game.
Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!