Stretching for many of us has been part of our warm-up routine since we were kids. Whether we were at soccer practice, in P.E. class or getting ready for a big basketball game, we were trained at a young age to practice static stretching before exercise. In addition, static stretching is commonly practiced by athletes, both as a part of a pre-exercise routine and part of an ongoing exercise programme.
While different types of stretching can be used for slightly different reasons. Usually, the aims of static stretch are to improve flexibility, enhance performance, and prevent injury. However, If you have spent any amount of time in a gym or reading any fitness related publication, you know the amount of debate and research on stretching and its potential benefits/risks is overly abundant.
As we mentioned, static stretching is commonly practiced by athletes, both as a part of a pre-exercise routine and part of an ongoing exercise programme. The question is, does static stretch improve flexibility, enhance performance, or prevent injury?
In this article, we are going to show you the current research around static stretch and how you may benefit from it.
Does Static Stretch improve flexibility?
There is consistent evidence that static stretch increases flexibility in the short-term, although the gains in flexibility decrease relatively quickly, such that they are lost within 30 minutes (Read More). There is also consistent evidence that static stretch performed regularly for several weeks results in meaningful improvements in range of motion (Read More).
In another study, they have measured the effect of frequency of static stretching on flexibility and hamstring tightness. They have concluded, “Static stretching exercises performed three times a week were sufficient to improve flexibility and range of motion compared to subjects exercising once a week" (Read More).
Does Static Stretch improve performance?
As we discussed earlier, Several recent reviews and meta-analyses have shown that any static stretch maintained for greater than 45 seconds immediately before the performance “negatively influences maximal strength, power, muscular explosive performance (e.g. jumping and sprinting), balance and agility (Read More) or has no effect on performance (Read More).
Research has shown, that static stretching such as touching your toes and holding the pose can actually compromise an individual’s performance without reducing the chance of injury. They highlighted, “performing static stretching before lifting weights may cause you to feel weaker than expected during your workout". (Read More)
In addition, in a meta-analysis review on whether dose pre-exercise static stretching inhibits maximal muscular performance. Thye have concluded that the “use of static stretch as the sole activity during warm-up routine should generally be avoided". (Read More)
However, in another study, they have measured the Effects of Static Stretching on Squat Performance in Division I Female Athletes. The results of this study suggest that “static stretching prior to lower-body resistance exercise will have no effect on performance in female Division I athletes". They suggest “coaches may encourage static stretching prior to resistance exercise entirely at their discretion as the results seem to be negligible" (Read More).
Does Static Stretch helps prevent injury?
Several studies have shown that decreased flexibility at baseline, or stretching less often, may predispose you to injury. For instance, lower extremity overuse injuries were significantly lower with increased hamstring flexibility in military basic infantry trainees (Read More).
Meanwhile, several systematic reviews have now evaluated the effect of static stretch on the risk of injury. The results of this study suggest that, “There is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine stretching before or after exercise to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes” (Read More) and “In light of these findings, routine stretching exercises before initiation of sports activities are not a proven, effective method for reducing injury rates” (Read More).
Take home message
1- Static stretch performed regularly results in improvements in flexibility and range of motion. (Keep doing them)
2- Static Stretch prior to resistance exercise may have no negative effects on performance. (No harm in doing them)
3- Static stretching alone before sports activities are not a proven and effective method for reducing injury rates, but
4- If you are enjoying static stretches as part of your daily routine (No harm in doing them).
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Dublin Sports Injury Clinic is a physical therapy clinic based in Pearse Street, Dublin 2. We have a holistic approach to our assessment and treatment. The initial assessment helps us to explore your risk factors and help you to get pain free shortly and stop any further injuries. We will design a customized training program for you to start with, and we will coach you and monitor your progress closely. We prescribe relative rest or modified activities as required. Depending on the individual requirement, we apply manual therapy accompanied by stretching to restore tissue elasticity and reduce the strain in the muscle-tendon unit with joint motion.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. You can contact us if you would like to book an appointment or get some advice from our therapist.