The Shocking Truth About Stretching
Once upon a time, it wasn’t uncommon to spend 30+ minutes holding a number of stretches for extended periods of time before practice, a game, or a run. But in recent years, studies suggested this “static” stretching might temporarily weaken the stretched muscle, meaning athletes would not be at their best afterwards.
So, the American College of Sports Medicine, began to advocate instead for dynamic stretching, with the thought that constant motion would remove any negative impacts while still helping muscles and joints to warm up and prepare for intense activity.
A recent study published in June in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise sought to test just that. Researchers decided to test static and dynamic stretching routines with 20 young, male athletes involved in physically demanding team sports like soccer and rugby.
On four different days, each athlete warmed up at a human performance lab, beginning with a few minutes of easy jogging, followed by stretching, and then an additional 15 minutes of increasingly intense sprinting, jumping, changing direction, and other moves. During the four days of the experiment, only the stretching piece changed during these warm-ups.
In the first session, the athletes completed nine brief static stretches lasting five seconds each. On the second day, the same nine stretches were held for 30 seconds each. The third day, the nine stretches were all done dynamically. And the final day, the athletes did not stretch during their warm-up. At the end of the warm-up each day, the athletes were tested on their flexibility, jumping, sprinting and agility. Surprisingly, they found that performance did not change from day-to-day. The group performed the same whether or not they had stretched, and whether the stretching had been static or dynamic.
What does that mean? Certainly not that you should give up warming up altogether. But, it is interesting to see that stretching doesn’t help or harm performance, even when it’s static stretching.
If you’re someone who enjoys stretching and feel that it makes you more prepared for physical activity, continue to do so without the worry that it’ll make your workout less effective! If you’re someone who hates stretching, continue to warm up but remove that piece from your regimen.
Questions? Interested in starting a workout routine but want to make sure your body is ready for the change? Call the clinic nearest you or schedule an appointment by visiting ptcentral.org/for-patients/schedule-an-appointment.