Is Your Stretching Routing Negatively Impacting Your Performance?
What if what you’ve been taught since grade school is dead wrong? Not only wrong, but what if what you were taught in your elementary phys ed class is currently having a negative impact on your performance. Remember touching your toes and holding it for 30 seconds? Well, for over a decade researchers have been studying the impact of static stretching during warm-up on performance. The assumption that holding a stretch for up to 30 seconds readies a muscle for sport is misaligned with current scientific research. In fact, static stretching before a workout can actually reduce strength, speed and power and may have no impact on reducing muscle soreness.
Is there a better preworkout stretch?
Dynamic stretching involves stretching muscles while moving, gradually increasing reach, speed or both. Unlike static stretching, where there is a neuromuscular inhibitory response and muscles actually become less responsive, dynamic stretching actually activates the muscle and increases body heat and blood flow in preparation for an activity. Increased muscle temperature allows muscles to contract and relax more quickly, allowing for enhanced speed and strength gains. Increased blood flow increases the amount of oxygen available for working muscles, allowing for greater endurance and performance gains.
Examples of dynamic stretching include leg and arm swings that gradually increase in range of motion. The more specific the stretches are to the sport, in our case CrossFit, the greater the benefits. Research has shown that dynamic stretching can enhance power, strength, muscular endurance, anaerobic capacity and agility performance. Furthermore, dynamic stretching has been shown to increase both dynamic and static flexiblity while static stretching only effects static flexibility.
Where’s the Proof?
In a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Hough, Ross and Howatson, showed that vertical jump was significantly less after static stretching than no stretching. Further, vertical jump was significantly greater in the dynamic stretch group than in any other group. The results showed that static stretching has a negative impact on vertical jump, whereas dynamic stretching has a positive impact.
Herman and Smith, in a study using 24 NCAA Division 1 wrestlers during a 4-week time period showed that a dynamic stretching warm-up had several performance improvements, including increases in quadriceps peak torque (11%), broad jump (4%), underhand medicine ball throw (4%), sit-ups (11%), and push-ups (3%).In contrast, , there was no observed improvement in the static stretching warm up group for peak torque of the quadriceps, broad jump, 300-yd shuttle run, medicine ball underhand throw for distance, sit-ups, push-ups, or 600-m run, and decrements in some performance measures occurred.