#1 DO NOT STRETCH BEFORE YOU WORKOUT OR PLAY!!
Wait, what?! Isn’t stretching before playing good? Doesn't it help prevent injury and improve performance?
To be clear for the purposes of this article and as is the common understanding; “stretching” refers specifically to static stretching. A static stretch is defined as a stretch that is held in a mildly challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, upwards of 90 seconds (see included image).
As a young man who was involved in sports and athletics I was often told to make sure to stretch before competition. Typically, this involved somewhat slightly painful slow static stretches – reach for your toes and hold……..
Often when there are advances in an industry based on the latest research there is a delay before it trickles down to the public. Let’s face it – it’s just not a “sexy” story and doesn't get media coverage. Case in point: static stretching as part of a pre-game warm up is BAD. There is no evidence that it reduces the risk of injury and, in fact, there is overwhelming evidence that static stretching prior to competition adversely affects performance.
Static stretching prior to competition adversely affects performance.
As Gretchen Reynolds writes on nytimes.com:
“.......researchers have discovered, this so-called static stretching can lessen jumpers’ heights and sprinters’ speeds, without substantially reducing people’s chances of hurting themselves.”1
Static stretch as a separate episode or after performance has benefits and its chronic effects can improve range of motion thereby reducing risk of injury. But prior to performance your warm up should include what’s known as dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves mimicking the needs of the action to be undertaken with little or no added weight to “get the blood flowing”. Examples would include jogging, high stepping or swinging a bat prior to stepping into the batter’s box. These would be done within the expected (and safe) range of motion, and are beneficial to performance and acutely reduce the risk of injury.
So it’s time to abandon the old ideal of pregame stretching. Better to start with slow and deliberate motions mimicking the needs of the sport and increase the range of motion in a more dynamic way. Save the static stretching for afterwards!
Next up – stretching – you’re doing it all wrong!