Since the 1990s, an abundance of scientific research has warned athletes to stay clear of static stretching prior to activities that require maximum strength and explosive power. But surely endurance exercisers are immune to the evils of static stretching pre-workout. Right? New evidence suggests otherwise.
A study published in the most recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research entitled examined the effect of static stretching as a warm-up on a one-mile uphill distance run with trained distance runners. Distance runners on two separate occasions, three days apart, completed a one-mile run as quickly possible on an incline treadmill.
Initially they warmed up for five minutes on a treadmill then static stretched by performed six different stretches for 30 seconds each for three sets. The second session commenced with the same five-minute treadmill warm-up but then subjects stood still for 10 minutes before the run. The results were fascinating.
Muscle Activation Results
Significantly faster times were completed by the group that did not static stretch prior to the run. Researchers noted that muscle activation decreased with the static stretching warm-up, but ground contact time increased. In lay terms, running economy – and therefore performance -- decreased as a result of static stretching. Researchers concluded that static stretching adversely affects endurance performance.
Static stretching warm-up proponents constantly point out that studies that show static stretching decreasing performance are not always realistic, citing studies that call for subjects to hold stretches for over two minutes. Generally, static stretching recommendations are for 20-60 seconds so this particular study fits the norm.
APPLICATION: Most coaches would recommend some sort of dynamic warm-up prior to a short endurance test, but this study did not look at a dynamic warm-up. In a nutshell, static stretching as a warm-up was beaten out by standing still for ten minutes.
Static stretching as a warm for strength, power or endurance performance based activities is a no-no. Save it post-workout. Evidence exists to suggest that after a workout, it can aid in recovery, increase flexibility and decrease soreness.
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com