Believe it or not, stretching is a controversial topic in the world of fitness and rehabilitation. Arguments range from, “static stretching impairs performance!” “Stretching only gives you short term changes!” “Dynamic stretching and warmups only!” “Resistance training is the key to being less stiff!”
Of course, like anything in this world, nothing is black and white. Let’s dive into how stretching can be a great compliment to your training program, warm up and rehabilitation if used correctly and at the right time.
First, let’s start with the topic of Static Stretching. This is the traditional type of stretch that we have all been taught since our grade-school gym class days. Place the muscle of choice on tension and hold for a certain amount of time. But how long is long enough? Should it hurt? Do I have to do this every day? There are many questions surrounding the optimal way to stretch.
Any exercise or rehab intervention is not meant to induce significant pain. However, pushing to a point of discomfort is advantageous to create a lasting effect with static stretching. Typically, holding a static stretch for 30-60 seconds will give you the benefits of increased muscle and soft tissue length (2). But wait! Don’t hold that stretch for too long. Studies have shown that holds greater than 60 seconds can decrease muscle performance immediately afterwards (1). Also, stretching typically only results in short-term (<30 minute) increases in range of motion. So, use static stretching when you’re feeling stiff throughout the day or have restrictions in certain areas, but get moving after! (1)
Now how about stretching as a warm-up and to enhance performance? Well, we just said that static stretching has a negative effect, but a technique known as Dynamic Stretching has some benefits (3). With this technique an individual uses the opposite muscle (antagonist) of the muscle being stretched (agonist) to lengthen the muscle and increase stretch tolerance (1). This can be seen during straight-leg-kicks where the hip flexor (antagonist) lengthens the hamstrings (agonist) as the leg is raised. It is important to note that dynamic stretching does not involve “bouncing” or “ballistic” movements. These types of movements can stimulate our stretch reflex resulting in muscle tightening and even injury (2)!
Dynamic Stretching Straight-Leg-Kicks
In conclusion, if it feels good to stretch and you can move better, then go for it! But remember, if you are preparing for competition, attempting a PR on deadlift or going for a run, it may be more advantageous to use dynamic stretching to get your muscles in the optimal condition for activity!
Performance impaired by your lack of mobility? Contact Vital Force Physio via phone: (513) 716-5105, Email: email@example.com or fill out our submission form on our website.
Please consult your Physical Therapist, Physician or Healthcare Provider prior to initiating any new exercise or rehab program.
Movement is Vital for a healthy body and Your Body is a Force to be reckoned with,
Dr. Bryan Vranic, PT, DPT, CSCS
1. David G. Behm, Anthony J. Blazevich, Anthony D. Kay, and Malachy McHugh. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 41(1): 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0235
2. Haff, Greg, Triplett, Travis. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Human Kinetics, 2016, pp. 321-323.
3. Iwata M, Yamamoto A, Matsuo S, Hatano G, Miyazaki M, Fukaya T, Fujiwara M, Asai Y, Suzuki S. Dynamic Stretching Has Sustained Effects on Range of Motion and Passive Stiffness of the Hamstring Muscles. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Feb 11;18(1):13-20. PMID: 30787647; PMCID: PMC6370952.