brief post has two main points:
stretching is not going to kill your performance
stretching is not a cure-all
nothing in this post is even remotely new.
you against static stretching or just the nonsense that people have said
unsupported benefits of stretching may have caused many of us to look for
reasons to attack stretching. For the past fifty years a simplistic view
that stretching was both a cure and prevention for all musculoskeletal
ailments has dominated sports medicine.
Many professionals and the media would suggest that you needed to
stretch to not just prevent injuries (pick up any Runner’s World Magazine
before 2009) but to ward off delayed muscle soreness, align your collagen
fibres after an injury, break up scar tissue, permanently lengthen muscles
to fix your posture and as an cure for any injury.
Ugh. These ideas were
extremely opinion driven with little evidence.
known for decades that its injury preventative influences were rather weak
or questionable (Shrier 1999) and its actual influence on muscle and the
function of the body were overblown and again questionable.
just because stretching is not helpful for a number of things does not mean
it doesn’t have utility.
evidence against stretching has mounted in the past 15 years
body of work emerged showing decreases in power, strength, balance and/or
speed following PROLONGED (>60 second holds) static stretching. (Canadian
researcher, David Behm) This work gave us more cause to question prolonged
static stretching’s wonderfulness as a panacea and gave us some insight on
how not to stretch. A horrible thing happened with this evidence against
static stretching. The
“stretching sucks” swing of the pendulum went too far with many not
reading and critically reviewing the literature and then applying this
research inappropriately to clinical practice.
now the “cutting edge” is anti-static stretching.
this is not cutting edge – the research is old and it needs to be applied
with a critical mind to our practical applications.
Throwing static stretching away is not research informed.
This is the same as telling people they have to stretch to prevent
injuries. We are again confusing
Shades of Gray for Black and White. Those
strongly against static stretching and suggesting it should not be part of a
good warm up are just as ill informed as those that suggested stretching was
the answer to everything musculoskeletal.
good blog post on the case for stretching (by Ben Bruno).
What I had read from the literature and what Ben stressed was:
of the research showing performance deficits following static stretching
tested prolonged stretching protocols (greater than 60 second holds).
Most people in a warm up don’t do this.
that is it. Prolonged static
stretching of greater than 60 seconds (not what is typically done in a warm
up) slightly decreases the performance during some simple activities.
There is no research showing long term changes in performance,
nothing showing an increase in injury risk, no reason to think that your
joints become unstable or more susceptible to injury and no reason to think
that stretching impairs our ability to adapt to a training stimulus.
Just maybe don’t stretch for longer than 60 seconds before an
event. Not that anyone everydid
this any way.
need some caution in dismissing stretching
can still be a useful tool in appropriate situations.
I’m not going to tell that runner who has been injury free for 15
years and stretching before every run to stop stretching.
we also should not generalize prolonged static-stretching’s negative
influence involving simple tasks across all aspects of human performance.
example, a decrease of isometric ankle strength followings stretching does
not mean a long distance runner will become more inefficient when running a
10k (and yes, this has been studied with decades of research, albeit
conflicting, but much showing no change in running economy following
example can be seen from my work as a mediocre researcher where we conducted
a small, unpublished study in 2007 on trunk kinematics during the golf swing
following a 60 second trunk rotation stretch. I was hoping to see losses of
performances so I could get the thing easily published.
Ideally, a decrease in trunk rotational velocity.
Of the nine subjects, none decreased their velocity.
Interesting, there were also no changes in spine rotation, the
x-factor or the x-factor stretch.
Round Up – I am not saying to go out and statically stretch every athlete
as a warm up
I am suggesting is that we need some caution in just catastrophizing over
simple exercises. Static
stretching can still have its purpose. Even when I was a big anti-stretchite
in the early 2000s I would warm up and static stretch during golf.
It did not change my performance and I needed the range to swing
fluidly. The demands of my sport
and the limitations in my function determined what I needed to do to
prepare. This is how we need to
treat all of our best practice recommendations.
Perform a needs analysis of your goal task, compare it to your
athletes ability and determine what matches and what needs work.
you have a sport that just needs a fantastic warm up as the demands of the
sport don’t see any athlete’s joint ranges come close to their maximum
(many long distance runners for example).
These athletes may not need to stretch.
But maybe you need to prepare an athlete for the extreme range of
movement they need in the sport. You
can have science on your side and incorporate a little static stretching
(e.g. 10-30 second holds) and not have to worry about their performance
suffering. You only have to
worry about a former pro-stretcher now evangelical anti-stretcher tweeting
that sky is falling because pro football players were stretching when the
lights went out during the Superbowl. Ugh.
conclude I think its best to listen to David Behm:
a warm-up to minimize impairments and enhance performance should be composed
of a submaximal intensity aerobic activity followed by large amplitude
dynamic stretching and then completed with sport-specific dynamic
activities. Sports that necessitate a high degree of static flexibility
should use short duration static stretches with lower intensity stretches in
a trained population to minimize the possibilities of impairments.