Stretching – is it Helpful?

Does static muscle stretching help or hinder?

For many years our pre-exercise routine consisted of some form of cardiovascular warm-up and various static muscle stretches. In recent times there has been a trend to eliminate static stretching due to the proposed idea that these may cause a decrease in muscle performance immediately after. So we have seen dynamic stretching and functional movements used a lot more as part of the warm-up process.

But what does the evidence say about static stretching?

The Review:

Today we look at a systematic review of the evidence from 2012 by Anthony Kay and Anthony Blazevich.
This systematic review looked at the effect of acute static muscle stretching on “maximal voluntary muscular performance outcome measure in strength-, power-,and speed-dependent tasks”.

The authors pooled the studies into groups based on the duration of the stretch used in the trials. Whilst there were some individual studies that showed reduction in performance measures after static stretching, collectively their results showed that for stretches less than 30 seconds and between 30-45 seconds there was no overall significant decrease in the various performance measures of strength, power and speed. But when the stretches were held for 60 seconds or longer, collectively, there was a moderate effect on performance indicators measured.

How should this effect our warm-up routines?

As the author points out, the number or stretches, how this effects different type of muscle activity and how long these effects last for still needs to be investigated further. As more research is undertaken in this field we expect our warm-up routines to continue to evolve to maximize performance and aid injury prevention.

There seems to be evidence from this review that static stretches, held for a duration of more than one minute may have a negative effect on performance. This gives us something to think about when planning the stretching aspect of our next warm-up session!


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