469964478412976
top of page
Search

Stretching - does it help or hinder performance?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

Stretching was first used by the ancient Greeks and across Asia as a form of torture technique. The Greeks and Romans used stretching as a preparation tool for their athletes and soldiers to keep them in shape. In the 18th century the first osteological studies were carried out. Stretching has now evolved and is commonly used in preparation for training (warm up and activation) and as a form of injury prevention method (Alter 1996; Woodsetal 2007). Studies by Ekstrand (1982) show contradictory evidence surrounding the role of stretching and the impact on injury where 31% of elite footballers had poor flexibility and were injured, compared to 18% that had good flexibility. Jeffreys suggests that stretching is used to increase the range of movement whilst Smith outlines the enhanced muscular coordination obtained when preforming stretches. It also provides a reduction in muscular resistance to movement (Shrier 2004). Post training stretches are often used as a recovery technique. Other benefits of stretching include improved blood flow and circulation as well as a reduction in stress. Whether we should stretch before a training session or sport is a debatable topic. Whether one should stretch before and/or after exercising or partaking in sport is a common debate and a confusing subject for coaches and individuals at different sporting levels.


Various types of stretching include static (SS), dynamic (DS), ballistic (BS) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static stretching can be active (self-stretch) or passive (partner assisted). This involves the application of a slow and constant force relax and elongate the muscle with the aim of improving range of motion. A passive stretch involves no voluntary muscle action as the external force (partner, gravity, stretching equipment) is used to provide the stretch. The use of stretching machines may cause increased individual stretch intensities (Avela et al. 1999; Avela et al.,2004; Fowles et al.,2000). Studies show that static stretching prior to training can have adverse affects on performance. Smith and Shrier (2004/1994) proposed that static stretching can reduce performance levels by 4-20%. There are minimal benefits, on reducing injury risk by preforming static stretching pre training (Gleim & McHugh, 1997; Pope, Herbert, Kirwan & Graham, 2000; Woods et al. 2007). There are studies that mention that this type of stretching would be more appropriate if performed post-training, or as part of the cool down. Lack of flexibility can be an injury inducing factor for athletes, so it is important that SS is included in their training program, provided it is done at the right time. Improving flexibility in specific muscles will be beneficial as it provides increased range of motion which for certain movements such as sprinting are important.

Dynamic stretching is an active movement stretch that mimics the speed of movement. This type of stretching is useful to prepare athletes for specific movement, such as a pre match warm up in team sport. DS requires voluntary muscular activation and plays and important role in preparing joints and muscles for the range of movement (ROM) required in sports. Ballistic stretching is a type of dynamic stretching that involves a bouncing movement. The end positioning is not held and can cause injury if preformed by athletes who are not as flexible as it is a relatively uncontrolled movement. Swanson (2006) & Thomas (2000) suggest the following sequence prior to engaging in sporting activities - An aerobic warm up prior to sports performance followed by DS and finally a sport specific warm up. PNF stretching involves the contraction and relaxation or the “hold and relax” method to alternate between the two states of muscular contraction and relaxation.

The RAMP warm up method developed by Ian Jeffreys is currently the most common one used by coaches and elite athletes. The RAMP acronym stands for raise, activate, mobilise and potentiate. This sequence provides a structured system for warming up athletes. It starts off by increasing muscle temperature, blood flow, muscle elasticity and neural activation followed by a sequence of movements that engage the muscles in preparation for the session. The mobilisation part focuses on dynamic movement patterns which will be used during the game, and finally increasing the stress on the body for the game in the potentiation phase.


Research shows that lower volumes of stretching may limit the negative effects produced by SS if required by the athlete to improve their flexibility and not be detrimental to their performance. <2-3 sets x <15 seconds of SS, PNF, DS or BS showed no effects on strength or power performance (Christensen and Nordstrom, 2008; Torres et al. 2008; Unick et a, 2005; Knudson et al. 2004). SS, PNF and BS produce negative effects and DS produces positive effects when performing 3-8 sets of 2-6 stretches per muscle group at 30-60 repetitions or seconds. (Behm et al. 2006; Church et al., 2001; Cramer et al. 2004; Knudson & Noffal, 2005; Kokkonen, Nelson, & Cornwell, 1998; Marek, et al., 2005; Nelson & Kokkonen,2001;Little &Williams,2006). This study assessed the effects of SS on vertical jump performance at 50%, 75% and 100% of the maximum level of discomfort and found that vertical jump performance was reduced by around 4% at all intensities. Research examining performance with loads of 50-85% of 1 rep max show similar responses in muscular endurance following SS (Franco et al. 2008; Garcia-Lopez et al.2010;Gomes et al.2010;Nelson et al.2005). Wilson et al, (2010) concluded that SS reduced the total distances run and Daniels and Daniels (1992) showed that SS reduced running economy. Interestingly, a study by Mojock et al (2001) provided some insight on SS and potential gender differences, as SS had no effect in female runners.


Athletes should aim to complete an active warm up. If SS is required this should be completed 10-15 minutes pre-performance. Multi joint assessments have shown a reduction in performance following SS after 5mins. Allowing the additional >15 minutes time makes the SS effect negligible on performance allowing athletes who need the extra static stretches to still perform them provided they are completed at the right time. SS increases ROM for up to 6min, with a non-significant increase in ROM for up to 30-60 minutes (DePino,Webright, & Arnold, 2000; Spernoga, Uhl,Arnold, & Gansneder, 2001). This highlights the thought of whether the short term gains in ROM balance off the potential decreases in performance. If post SS performance levels are reduced for up to 16 minutes, with the greatest decline shown in the first 5 mins we need to emphasise the importance of allowing that time window between completing the SS and the DS in the athlete’s warm up to offset the potential decline in performance within the first 15 minutes post SS.


So what triggers this decline in performance? SS increases ROM, which reduces muscular stiffness and promotes blood flow thus increasing circulation. This produces a lack of return of elastic energy which could be one of the factors that reduce performance (Lopes et al.,2010; Wilson,et al.,2010). When performing movements such as a countermovement jump or a vertical jump an element of stiffness is required to allow for the quick reflex of the muscle to contract and expand to produce the jump height. The change in muscle-tendon length and increased muscle slack following SS is one of the factors that hinders performance (Cramer et al. , 2004; Evetovich et al, 2010; Marek, et al. , 2005). Various research indicates that a combination of both neuromuscular and mechanical mechanisms contribute to stretch induced performance alterations.


The intensity of the active warm up element and the DS are vital if they are to aid performance (Fletcher and Jones, 2006). DS is essential for warm ups for team sport athletes, especially in high impact and fast paced sports such as basketball, football, rugby and netball to prepare the athletes for the movements they are required to complete in the game. For example, dynamic hamstring stretching is essential for runners as it will switch on one of the main posterior chain muscles used to perform this movement. Various exercises such as dynamic leg swings and B skips would be used in this case. DS also enhances muscular activation (Herda et al.2008;Hough et al. 2009) and may enhance performance via enhanced metabolic processes (Dixon et al.2010;McMillan et al., 2006).

Conclusion: Stretching has evolved over time, and has an important role in athletic performance and health. Stretching provides additional psychological benefits (Beckett et al., 2009) as well as enhanced proprioception (Costa et al.,2009; Handrakis et al. 2010). SS acutely reduces performance if performed prior to training, however low volume (1-2 sets) of short duration (10-25 seconds) at a moderate intensity is completed 10-15 minutes has a negligible effect on performance. Mechanical and neuromuscular mechanisms are important, which highlights the importance of performing dynamic stretching, prior to engaging in sporting activities to achieve a positive performance outcome.


REFERENCES


Costa, P. B., Graves, B. S., Whitehurst, M., & Jacobs, P. L. (2009). The acute effects of different durations of static stretching on dynamic balance performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23, 141-147.


Cramer , J. T ., Housh, T . J., Coburn, J. W ., Beck, T . W ., & Johnson, G. O. (2006). Acute effects of static stretching on maximal eccentric torque production in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20, 354-358.

Cramer , J. T ., Housh, T . J., Johnson, G. O., Miller , J. M., Coburn, J. W ., & Beck, T . W . (2004). Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18, 236-241.


Cramer , J. T ., Housh, T . J., Weir , J. P ., Johnson, G. O., Coburn, J. W ., & Beck, T . W . (2005). The acute effects of static stretching or peak tor que, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 93, 530-539.


Curry, B. S., Chengkalath, D., Crouch, G. J., Romance, M., & Manns, P. J. (2009). Acute effects of dynamic stretching, static stretching, and light aerobic activity on muscular performance in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23, 1811-1819.


Dalrymple, K. J., Davis, S. E., Dwyer, G. B., & Moir, G. L. (2010). Effect of static and dynamic stretching on vertical jump performance in collegiate women volleyball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 149-155.


Daniels, J and Daniels, N. Running economy of elite male and elite female runners. Med Sci Sport Exerc 24: 483–489, 1992.

DePino, G. M., Webright, W. G., & Arnold, B. L. (2000). Duration of maintained hamstring flexibility after cessation of an acute static stretching protocol. Journal of Athletic Training, 35, 56-59.

Evetovich, T. K., Cain, R. M., Hinnerichs, K. R., Engebretsen, B. J., & Conley, D. S. (2010). Interpreting normalized and nonnormalized data after acute static stretching in athletes and non-athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 1988-1994.

Fletcher, I. M., & Jones, B. (2004). The effects of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 meter sprint performance in trained rugby union players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18, 885-888.

Fletcher, I. M., & Monte-Colombo, M. M. (2010). An investigation into the effects of different warm-up modalities on specific motor skills related to soccer performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 2096-2101.

Fowles, J. R., Sale, D. G., & Macdougall, J. D. (2000). Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Journal of Applied Physiology


Franco, B. L. , Signorelli, G. R. , T rajano, G. S. , & De Oliveira, C. G. (2008). Acute effects of different stretching exercises on muscular endurance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22, 1832-1837.


Gleim, G. W . , & McHugh, M. P . (1997). Flexibility and its effects on sports injury and performance. Sports Medicine, 24, 289-299.

Gomes, T . M. , Simao, R. , Marques, M. C. , Costa, P . B. , & Da Silva Novaes, J. (2010). Acute effects of two different stretching methods on local muscular endurance performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25, 745-752.

Haag, S. J., Wright, G. A., Gillette, C. M., & Greany, J. F. (2010). Effects of acute static stretching of the throwing shoulder on pitching performance of national collegiate athletic association division III baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 452-457.

Handrakis, J. P . , Southard, V . N. , Abreu, J. M. , Aloisa, M. , Doyen, M. R. , Echevarria, L. M. , et al. (2010). Static stretching does not impair performance in active middle- aged adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 825-830.

Herda, T . J. , Cramer , J. T . , Ryan, E. D . , McHugh, M. P . , & Stout, J. R. (2008). Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22, 809-817.

Hough, P. A., Ross, E. Z., & Howatson, G. (2009). Effects of dynamic and static stretching on vertical jump performance and electromyographic activity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 23, 507-512.

Jeffreys, I. (2008). Warm-up and stretching. In T. R. Baechle, & R. W. Earle, Essentials of Strength and Training and Conditioning/ National Strength and Conditioning Association (2nd ed., pp. 295-324). Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics.


Knudson, D. (1999). Stretching during warm-up: do we have enough evidence? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 70, 24-27.

Knudson, D., & Noffal, G. (2005). Time course of stretch-induced isometric strength deficits. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94, 348-351.


Kokkonen, J., Nelson, A. G., & Cornwell, A. (1998). Acute muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69, 411-415.


Little, T., & Williams, A. G. (2006). Effects of differential stretching protocols during warm-ups on high-speed motor capacities in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20, 203-207.


Lopes, F . A. , Meneyon, E. M. , Franchini, E. , T ricoli, V . , & Dem Bertuzzi, R. C. (2010). Is acute static stretching able to reduce the time to exhaustion at power output corresponding to maximal oxygen uptake? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 1650-1656.


Manoel, M. E. , Harris-Love, M. O. , Danoff, J. V . , & Miller , T . A. (2008). Acute effects of static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle power in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22, 1528-1534.


Marek, S. M. , Cramer , J. T . , Fincher , A. L. , Massey , L. L. , Dangelmaier , S. M. , Purkyastha, S. , et al. (2005). Acute effects of static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching elicited acute changes in muscule strength and power output. Journal of Athletic Training, 40, 94-103.


McBride, J. M., Deane, R., & Nimphius, S. (2007). Effect of stretching on agonist-antagonist muscle activity and muscle force output during single and multiple joint isometric contractions. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 17, 54-60.


McMillan, D. J., Moore, J. H., Hatler, B. S., & Taylor, D. C. (2006). Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm-up: the effecton power and agility performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20, 492-499.


Molacek, Z. D . , Conley , D . S. , Evetovich, T . K. , & Himerichs, K. R. (2010). Effects of low- and high-volume stretching on bench press performance in collegiate football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 711-716.

Moore, J. C. (1984). The golgi tendon organ: a review and update. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 38, 227-236.

Nelson, A. G., & Kokkonen, J. (2001). Acute ballistic muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performance. Research Quarterly in Exercise and Sport, 72, 415-419.

Nelson, A. G., Kokkonen, J., & Eldredge, C. (2005). Strength inhibition following an acute stretch is not limited to novice stretchers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 500-506.

Nelson, R. T., & Bandy, W. D. (2005). An update on flexibility. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 27, 10-16.

Pope, R. P., Herbert, R. D., Kirwan, J. D., & Graham, B. J. (2000). A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32, 271-277.

Power , K. , Behm, D . , Cahill, F . , Carroll, M. , & Y oung, W . (2004). An acute bout of static stretching: effects on force and jumping performance. Medicine and Science in Sports

and Exercise, 36, 1389-1396.

Reiman, M. P . , Peitner , A. M. , Bocher , A. L. , Cameron, C. N. , Murphy , J. R. , & Carter , J. W . (2010). Effects of dynamic warm -up with and without a weighted vest on lower extremity power performance of high school male athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 3387-3395.



14 views0 comments

Comentarios


bottom of page