If you geek out on the latest fitness trends like me (or even if you don’t) you may have heard to ditch static stretching before your workouts. You may have heard that new research shows that static stretching is bad for you. Is it? Let’s see.
The idea of static stretching being bad comes from several research studies that show different findings on comparing static stretching to dynamic stretching. For those unaware, below are the explanations of the two.
Static Stretching – Holding a stretched muscle for a period of time, usually 20-30 seconds. Think touching your toes and holding it for 20 seconds or more. Most likely, this is the type of stretching you have done since P.E. class and maybe still do before your workouts.
Dynamic Stretching – This involves stretching while moving. You elongate your muscles for a brief moment in an extending range of motion. Think touching your toes and then walking your hands out to a plank (push-up) position and then walking your hands back to your toes.
There are certainly other types of stretching such as ballistic and neuro-integrated, but for this article we will review the static and dynamic variety.
Maybe someday pro football strength and conditioning coaches will get the memo so they can join the ranks of us working out in our living rooms, health clubs, or abandoned warehouses.
Why are people saying to ditch the static stretching before workouts?
There have been research studies that show several findings of possible negative effects from static stretching. The fitness community has run with these findings and fitness bloggers all over the net are warning, “Don’t static stretch!”
This one here shows that dynamic stretching improves athletic performance when compared to static stretching. This one shows the same.
Okay, pretty straightforward. Just do dynamic stretching.
This study shows no difference in static stretching and dynamic stretching in certain events. This other one shows flexibility is improved with static stretching opposed to dynamic.
One thing I noticed about these studies: they are very small controlled studies with roughly 20 participants in each study. Do we really throw out conventional wisdom that says “static stretches help us” for a few studies with so few participants? Do we ignore the findings?
I don’t know.
I do know that a lot of fitness trainers and enthusiasts are on the dynamic stretching bandwagon, but not all. I saw a few pretty good athletes in this game they call the “Super Bowl” at the beginning of the month. In the television coverage before the game I saw the participants… (are you ready?)… static stretching! Apparently the elite athletes that make up what we know as the NFL have missed the static stretching memo. Those that watched in America (all 200+ million of you) might have also noticed that the power went out in the 3rd quarter. There the players were again. Static stretching. “Nooooo!” cried the fitness bloggers across the web that so diligently warned the world of the static dangers.
Maybe someday pro football strength and conditioning coaches will get the memo so they can join the ranks of us working out in our living rooms, health clubs, or abandoned warehouses. Until then I wish them happy static stretching time.
But I digress. I must say I have implemented the dynamic stretching element into my workouts and I like it. A lot. Even if I am following a routine that doesn’t call for it, I add it in. I also don’t run from static stretches either.
Bottom line: based on the research that is out there, I don’t think static stretches will handicap you in your basic fitness plan. If you are about to line up for a race, maybe you will want to ease up and do more of the dynamic stretches to have an edge. Either way, any stretching beats no stretching any day in my book.