Thursday, December 23, 2010

To stretch or not to stretch – that is the question?

Who hasn’t begun a run, exercise session or volleyball game with a bit of static stretching? You see it everywhere – runners stretching their hamstrings while pushing against trees and stretching their Achilles tendon using street curbs, and then setting out for their run.

But is this really doing your muscles and energy systems any good for your pending athletic performance?

Once an essential part of the sporting warm up, many coaches are now suggesting that static stretches should be avoided just prior to warming up, competition or exercise. New research also doubts the effectiveness of static stretching in enhancing your performance or work out, with some strongly recommending against it.

Static stretching, the slow and constant movement of a muscle to a fixed end point, and held for up to +/-30 seconds, is designed to improve range of motion and enhance athletic performance. But research says that doing this before athletic practice or performance actually produces a decline in muscle performance and should not be done immediately before any activity whose performance depends largely upon achieving high amounts of force.

While there is value to static stretching, the real question is ‘when do you perform it?’ The best times are just after a low intensity activity designed to increase muscle temperature, or after your workout, or at a completely different time not associated with a high session of physical activity, in order to get its full benefits.

To learn more about static stretching prior to exercise, please review the following resources.

Small, Katie, McNaughton, Lars, and Matthews, Martyn, (2008) A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury. Research in Sports Medicine, 16(3), p213.

Warming Up

Flexibility Training

To stretch or not to stretch before competitive tennis?

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