Tag Archives: 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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Don’t Warm-Up with a Stretch

4 May

static-stretching1[1]Most of us grew up being told that we should warm up for physical activity (exercise, sport practice or game) with a stretch.  Pre-activity stretching has been (and still is) a preferred strategy to help athletes get “loose,” strong, and avoid injury.

But the field of exercise science has generated a large body of research providing evidence that disputes that idea.  Instead, researchers have discovered that static stretching can reduce strength and power output, especially in the short-term, resulting in decreasing jumpers’ heights and sprinters’ speeds, without substantially reducing people’s chances of hurting themselves.  And two new studies add to a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

The impact of this information, especially for competitive athletes, is compelling.  Static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles, and the impact increases with the amount of time the stretch is held.  Stretched muscles are, in general, substantially less strong.

Stretched muscles are also less powerful, as measured by the muscle’s ability to produce force during contractions.  Muscle power generally decreases after stretching.

This information has broad implications for competitive athletes, given that static stretching is associated with a significant decrease in explosive muscular performance.  The impact of pre-activity stretching can impair a sprinter’s burst from the starting blocks; a tennis player’s serve; a weightlifter’s Olympic lift; or a basketball player’s attempt at a blocked shot.  Their performance, after warming up with stretching, is likely to be worse than if they hadn’t warmed up at all.

Although this information primarily applies to people participating in events that require strength and explosive power — more so than endurance — research also speaks of static stretching impairing performance in distance running and cycling.

Ultimately, a warm-up should improve performance, not worsen it.  A better choice is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be employed in your workout, practice, or game.  In other words, your warm-up should include movements that reflect the demands of your activity, whether that be physical training or sport participation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Resistance Band Warmup Can Improve Lower-Body Power

10 Apr

0809_posterA1_200x200[1]Pre-workout warmup with an elastic resistance band (band squat) is just as effective as the barbell box squat, in augmenting acute jump power, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  Both modes of warmup were superior to static stretching.

Power output significantly decreased from pre-warmup to post-warmup for the static stretch protocol.  The static stretch was detrimental to jump performance.  There is a consensus in the scientific literature to suggest a negative relationship between static stretching and acute power performance (sprinting, jumping, etc.).

The barbell box squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3RM; the band squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3 repetitions using highest resistance elastic bands; and the static stretch protocol used two 30-second stretches of muscles of the lower limbs.

Since elastic resistance bands are relatively inexpensive, portable, and accessible (compared to less transportable equipment like squat racks and free weights), strength and conditioning professionals may consider them for athletes training at various competition levels.

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?

Don’t Warm-Up with a Stretch

5 Apr

static-stretching1[1]Most of us grew up being told that we should warm up for physical activity (exercise, sport practice or game) with a stretch.  Pre-activity stretching has been (and still is) a preferred strategy to help athletes get “loose,” strong, and avoid injury.

But the field of exercise science has generated a large body of research providing evidence that disputes that idea.  Instead, researchers have discovered that static stretching can reduce strength and power output, especially in the short-term, resulting in decreasing jumpers’ heights and sprinters’ speeds, without substantially reducing people’s chances of hurting themselves.  And two new studies add to a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

The impact of this information, especially for competitive athletes, is compelling.  Static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles, and the impact increases with the amount of time the stretch is held.  Stretched muscles are, in general, substantially less strong.

Stretched muscles are also less powerful, as measured by the muscle’s ability to produce force during contractions.  Muscle power generally decreases after stretching.

This information has broad implications for competitive athletes, given that static stretching is associated with a significant decrease in explosive muscular performance.  The impact of pre-activity stretching can impair a sprinter’s burst from the starting blocks; a tennis player’s serve; a weightlifter’s Olympic lift; or a basketball player’s attempt at a blocked shot.  Their performance, after warming up with stretching, is likely to be worse than if they hadn’t warmed up at all.

Although this information primarily applies to people participating in events that require strength and explosive power — more so than endurance — research also speaks of static stretching impairing performance in distance running and cycling.

Ultimately, a warm-up should improve performance, not worsen it.  A better choice is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be employed in your workout, practice, or game.  In other words, your warm-up should include movements that reflect the demands of your activity, whether that be physical training or sport participation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Dynamic Warm-Up vs. Static Stretching

14 Aug

When I travel off-site to work with groups, teams, and organizations, I always ask about their pre-activity routine.  Specifically, I ask about what they do (non-sport-specific) to warm-up before a workout, practice, or game?  Invariably, the answer involves some form of static stretching.  And why not?  Static stretching has been helping athletes to “get loose” longer than any of us can remember (it was certainly part of my warm-up, decades ago)… right?  Well, the reality is, stretching elongates and relaxes your muscles, and does not necessarily prepare them to generate force.  When compared to static stretching, dynamic warm-up (or, movement prep) is a better pre-activity strategy for increasing strength and power output; improving running endurance; and is just as effective for injury prevention.

There are several articles supporting Dynamic Warm-up/Movement Prep vs. Static Stretching:

With regard to the statement that static stretching elongates and relaxes muscles, Covert, et. al. found, in their study – Ballistic vs. Static Stretching – “The static stretching group demonstrated a statistically greater increase in hamstring muscle length than the ballistic stretching group.  No injuries or complications were attributed to either stretching group.” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

In their article, The Effect of Acute Stretching on Agility Performance, Van Gelder and Bartz concluded that “Dynamic warm-up/movement prep significantly improves agility performance, compared with static stretching or no stretching.” (JSCR)

Frantz and Ruiz compared dynamic warm-up vs. static warm-up, on vertical jump (VJ) and standing long jump (LJ) in collegiate athletes, in their article, Effects of Dynamic Warm-up on Lower Body Explosiveness (JSCR), asserting the following:

  • Dynamic warm-up participants jumped significantly higher (VJ).
  • “Individuals jumped significantly further (LJ) after no warm-up compared to static warm-up.”
  • “Dynamic warm-up increases both VJ height and LJ distance.”
  • Athletes can improve vertical jump “by simply switching from a static warm-up routine to a dynamic routine.”

Pacheco, et. al. studied the short-term effects of different stretching exercises during the warm-up period on the lower limbs in their article, The Acute Effects of Different Stretching Exercises on Jump Performance (JSCR).  The authors compared no stretching, static stretching, and “active stretching” (dynamic warm-up).  “The results of this study suggest that active stretching can be recommended during the warm-up for explosive force disciplines.”

The effect of static stretching on cycling economy (muscle endurance) was examined by Wolfe, et al. (JSCR), in their study, Time Course of the Effects of Static Stretching on Cycling Economy .  When comparing no stretching with static stretching, they concluded “… coaches and highly trained endurance cyclists should exclude static stretching immediately before moderate intensity cycling because it reduces acute cycling economy.”

Dynamic warm-up/movement prep will better prepare your muscles to generate force when you workout, practice, or play.  The best warm-up is one in which you use the same movements you will need in those activities.  For example, a pre-game (non-sport-specific) warm-up for basketball players should include running, backpedaling, shuffling, jumping, hopping, and other exercises that emphasize acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction.

Where does stretching fit into your routine?  Stretching (and the foam roll, which I’ll discuss in another post) is still a great post-activity strategy.  Static-stretching – after a workout, practice, or game – won’t necessarily prevent muscle soreness, but it should be part of your post-activity recovery plan.  The benefits of stretching after your workout (according to the Mayo Clinic) include:

  • Increased flexibility and joint range of motion
  • Improved circulation
  • Better posture
  • Stress relief
  • Enhanced coordination

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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