Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stretching before sport - OK only if there is also a sport specific warm up

I've previously pointed to studies (e.g. here) that indicate that static stretching should be avoided prior to exercise - especially if your exercise is one that needs explosive power.

Here is a study which accepts that position but indicates that you can minimise this negative impact. If static stretching is to be included in the warm-up, some sort of high-intensity sport-specific skills based activity is completed as a final warm up prior to going on court/field.

So stretch before if you must but if you do, then add some high intensity stuff - jumps or sprints - to get your power back....

Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sport specific warm-up component

There is substantial evidence that static stretching may inhibit performance in strength and power activities. However, most of this research has involved stretching routines dissimilar to those practiced by athletes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the decline in performance normally associated with static stretching pervades when the static stretching is conducted prior to a sport specific warm-up. Thirteen netball players completed two experimental warm-up conditions. Day 1 warm-up involved a submaximal run followed by 15min of static stretching and a netball specific skill warm-up. Day 2 followed the same design; however, the static stretching was replaced with a 15min dynamic warm-up routine to allow for a direct comparison between the static stretching and dynamic warm-up effects. Participants performed a countermovement vertical jump and 20m sprint after the first warm-up intervention (static or dynamic) and also after the netball specific skill warm-up. The static stretching condition resulted in significantly worse performance than the dynamic warm-up in vertical jump height (-4.2%, 0.40 ES) and 20m sprint time (1.4%, 0.34 ES) (p<0.05). However, no significant differences in either performance variable were evident when the skill-based warm-up was preceded by static stretching or a dynamic warm-up routine. This suggests that the practice of a subsequent high-intensity skill based warm-up restored the differences between the two warm-up interventions. Hence, if static stretching is to be included in the warm-up period, it is recommended that a period of high-intensity sport-specific skills based activity is included prior to the on-court/field performance.