Archive for the tag - dynamic stretching

Static Stretching is Bad For You! [Study]

diagonal-hand-toe-touch-b-exThink back to elementary school physical education. Chances are, your instructor warmed up the class with a number of static stretches… like touching your toes and holding it for 30 seconds. Now, a growing body of evidence suggests that static stretching has the opposite effect that we intend; it decreases speed, reduces strength and increases injury risk.

The New York Times recently cited two studies in the case against static stretching. One study, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, has demonstrated the negative impact of static stretching on weight lifting. A separate article published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports has added additional fuel to the fire by analyzing more than 100 previous studies.

Here are a few of the key findings.

According to researchers, static stretching reduces strength by almost 5.5%. In a different study involving squats, static stretching was found to reduce strength by 8.3% – and was linked to increased feeling of instability. Researchers noted that the impact is greatest when muscles are stretched for 90 seconds or more – and somewhat reduced for stretches under 45 seconds.

But it doesn’t end there. Power is a measure of a muscle’s ability to produce for during contractions, and muscle power generally falls by about 2% after static stretching. Explosive muscular power – like bursting into a full sprint – was reduced by 2.8%.

While reducing output by a few percentage points doesn’t sound like a big deal, every pound or nanosecond counts – especially in the world of competitive sports. When races are won by hundredths of a second, reducing power by 2% is a game changer.

The bottom line: Skip static stretches. Instead of warming up by holding poses for a given length of time, most trainers recommend dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves moving your muscles – like arm circles or jumping jacks – to properly warm up your body for a given exercise.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Stretching.

If I could do this - well, who would need a boyfriend?

If I told you that I knew something that could:

  • Boost your performance
  • Increase your flexibility (in bed)
  • Improve recovery
  • Decrease muscle soreness

Would you do it? Of course! So, what is this magic something? It’s called stretching.

The are two main types of stretching: Static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you elongate a muscle group and hold it for a period of time – like touching your toes for 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching uses movements that involve speed – like arm circles, leg kicks and everything else that you did in middle school gym class.

Over the years, I’ve become better – and wiser – about stretching.

For example, did you know that there is a bad time to stretch? Yup. Doing static stretching before strength training (i.e., lifting weights, resistance machines, etc.) will likely reduce your ability to lift by an average of 15%. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is fine before strength training. But the best time to stretch – believe it or not – is at the very end of your strength training routine when your muscle are tired and warmed up. Hold your static stretches for longer than 30 seconds to full take advantage of the benefits.

You also want to avoid stretching for cardio before you’ve warmed up. I always do a gentle jog on the treadmill for 3 minutes before stretching; it gets the blood flowing. Muscles are like Silly Putty. You have to warm it up to stretch it – otherwise, they snap.

The bottom line: Stretch for cardio once you’ve done a warm-up, and stretch again following your strength training routine at the conclusion of your workout. Those few minutes will prove to be a big investment into the success of your fitness program.