Tag Archives: passive static stretch

Save the Stretch for After

7 Dec

kobe_bryant_stretching[1]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:

  1. The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
  2. 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!

Your thoughts?

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Is Flexibility Overrated?

24 Nov

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Save the Stretch for After

4 Sep

kobe_bryant_stretching[1]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:

  1. The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
  2. 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!

Your thoughts?

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