Ask any strength coach whether you should perform static stretches before a workout or game, and you'll likely elicit a long rant (or fit of rage). Most will say you should never static stretch before activity, because it can impair your performance and put you at risk for injury. Specifically, it will decrease your max power output and may permanently lengthen your ligaments, which decreases joint stability.
Almost all strength experts agree that static stretching should be reserved for your post-workout cool-down, and that before activity, athletes—or anyone working out—should perform a dynamic warm-up.
That said, information about how long before activity you should avoid static stretching has been scarce. Fortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sought to answer this question, and the results were shocking.
Researchers had 16 soccer players perform three tests: a 30-meter sprint, a 5-jump sequence, and a repeat sprint. The athletes performed each test after a 15-minute static stretch, a 15-minute dynamic warm-up and a no-stretch program.
They found that performing a dynamic warm-up 24 hours before the tests—specifically, the 30-meter sprint and 5-jump test—yielded the best results. Static stretching produced the worst results—even worse than not stretching at all.
For high-performance athletes, this is groundbreaking information, and you should definitely consider it when planning your routine.
Should you never static stretch again? No need to go that extreme; static stretching is a viable way to increase flexibility and mobility, and to cool down from a workout.
However, if you work out and have a game, race or match the following day, it may be best to avoid static stretching during that 24-hour period to make sure you perform at your best. Try other cool-down methods, such as foam rolling, to begin the recovery process after a workout without diminishing your game-day performance.
Replace your pre-game static stretching routine with exercises from these dynamic warm-ups:
- A Dynamic Warm-Up You Can Perform Anywhere
- Dynamic Warm-Ups for Runners and Lifters
- The 7-Minute High-Intensity Dynamic Warm-Up
Haddad, M., et al. "Static stretching can impair explosive performance for at least 24 hours." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Volume 28 (2014): 140–146.
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