Stretching is a useful tool to move and lengthen muscles, and to keep muscles supple and functional. But when is the best time to stretch, and what are the best types of stretches to do?
Lets start with two basic types of stretching: static and dynamic. A static stretch involves holding a muscle or joint still in one position for a period of time, usually for around 30 seconds (Perrier et al 2011). For instance, to statically stretch your quadriceps, you would bend your knee and hold your heel to your behind for 30-60 seconds.
Dynamic stretching involves moving a muscle or joint through a range of motion multiple times, hence the name dynamic stretch (Perrier et al 2011). So to dynamically stretch your quadriceps you would bend and straighten your knee several times to shorten and lengthen the muscle through its available range. This could be done slowly or quickly.
It has been shown that static stretching can actually reduce performance such as jump heights and sprint times if performed directly before activity (Bradley & Olsen et al. 2007). This hindrance can be removed however if high-intensity, sport-specific warm up is performed after static stretching and before the desired sport/activity (Taylor et al. 2009).
Dynamic stretching on the other hand has been shown to be beneficial to performance when performed before activity. Researches Gelen et al. 2012 found that dynamic stretches improved tennis serve velocity, and dynamic stretches have also been shown to improve jump height (Perrier et al. 2011).
So it sounds like dynamic stretching is a better option, but don’t throw away the static stretches just yet. Static stretches are great for flexibility when performed either once every day, or 3 days a week twice daily (Cipriani et al. 2012). Static stretching is also great at relieving trigger point pain when performed after physiotherapy (Hanton et al. 2000).
Static stretching may also be good for injury prevention. A study of 901 military recruits reported significantly less muscle, tendon, and lower back injuries when recruits stretched vs. a control group (Amako et al. 2003). Additionally certain stretches of the shoulder have been shown to reduce the risk of shoulder and elbow injuries in baseball pitchers (Shitara et al 2017); so stretching regularly probably does have a roll in injury prevention.
After injury, stretching may also be useful as part of rehabilitation. In the rehabilitation of hamstrings, the inclusion of static stretches improved recovery time for return to play, as well as time to normal range of movement (Malliaropoulos et al. 2004)!
In summary, dynamic stretching can improve performance, while static stretching can hinder it. Static stretching is still great for improving flexibility and probably preventing injury and aiding recovery. Further more, doing a sport-specific warm up after stretches can ameliorate any negative effects of static stretching on performance. For information on stretches that will help YOU, ask an Alpha Physio.
Special thanks to Thilina Vitharana, whose presentation ‘The Role of Stretching in Sport’ at the UQ Sports Masters Conference was helpful in research for this blog.
Amako, M, Oda, T, Masuoka, K, Yokoi, H & Campisi P, 2003, ‘Effect of Static Stretching on Prevention of Injuries for Military Recruits’, Military Medicine, vol. 168, no. 6, pp. 442-446
Bradley, PS, Olsen, PD & Portas MD, 2007, ‘The Effect Of Static, Ballistic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching On Vertical Jump Performance’ Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol.21, no. 1, pp. 223-226
Cipriani, DJ, Terry, ME, Haines, MA, Tabibnia, AP, & Lyssanova, O, 2012, ‘Effect of Stretch Frequency and Sex on the Rate of Gain and Rate of Loss in Muscle Flexibility During a Hamstring-Stretching Program: A Randomized Single Blind Longitudinal Study’ The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, vol. 26, no. 8, pp. 2119-2129
Gelen, E, Dede M, Bingul BM, Bulgan, C & Aydin, M, 2012, ‘Acute Effects of Static Stretching, Dynamic Exercises, and High Volume Upper Extremity Plyometric Activity on Tennis Serve Performance’, Journal of Sports and Science Medicine, Vol. 11, no. 4 pp. 600-605
Hanton, WP, Olson, SL, Butts, NL, & Nowicki AL, 2000, ‘Effectiveness of a Home Program of Ischemic Pressure Followed by Sustained Stretch for Treatment of Myofascial Trigger Points’, Physical Therapy, Vol. 80, no. 10, pp. 997-1003
Malliaropoulos, N, Papalexandris, S, Papalada, A & Papacostas, E, 2004, ‘The Role of Stretching in Rehabilitation of Hamstring Injuries: 80 Athletes Follow-Up’, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol. 36, no. 5, pp.756-759
Perrier, ET, Pavol, MJ & Hoffman, MA, 2011, ‘The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility’ Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, vol. 25, no.7, pp. 1925-1931
Shitara, H, Yamamoto, A & Shimoyama, D, et al., 2017, ‘Shoulder Stretching Intervention Reduces the Incidence of Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in High School baseball Players: Time-to-Event Analysis’, Scientific Reports, Vol. 7, no. 45304
Taylor, KL, Sheppard, JM & Plummer, N, 2009, ‘Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with sport specific warm-up component’ Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 657-661
Vitharana, T, 2017, ‘The Role of Stretching in Sport’ [Presentation at Sports Masters Conference], University of Queensland, attended 28/10/17
If you have any further questions, require specific strategies for stretching, or need restorative physiotherapy, please feel free to contact Alpha Physiotherapy and book an appointment on (07) 3279 3871.