Is Stretching Before Activity Always Good?

Most of us have had it drilled into us that we should always stretch before undertaking activity.  Well…

Recent research has shown that prolonged stretching (i.e., touching your toes and holding a pose for 30 seconds or more) can actually reduce performance and not necessarily reduce your potential for injury.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicated that prolonged stretching may make you feel weaker and less stable. This conclusion was supported by an analysis of other studies that focused exclusively on athletic performance where pre-activity performance was limited solely to static stretching.  The analysis reviewed 104 prior studies and was conducted by the University of Zagreb in Croatia (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22316148).  According to their calculations, static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles by almost 5.5%, with the impact increasing in people who hold individual stretches for 90 seconds or more.  Degradation was evident with static stretches of 45 seconds as well.  Overall, they found that muscle strength declined about 2% after stretching.

Muscles engaged in “explosive” action (i.e., first serves in tennis, rapid acceleration moves, blocking a shot in basketball) were most impacted. The research concluded that in such activities, performance would be better without stretching.

And while the research focused on the aforementioned types of explosive actions, it suggested that the results were likely to be similar for activities like running and cycling as well.

It was suggested that a better warm-up might include more kinetic actions like jumping jacks and high kicks that might better mimic the intended activity.

 

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