Have you ever seen an athlete reach down and touch their toes or reach an arm across the body while pulling on the elbow for ten seconds right before they are about to run, jump, or weightlift. I know I have. The athlete thinks they are warming up or getting loose, but is the athlete really doing anything that will help their performance? Should the athlete have stretched the night before to prepare for their big event? In this article I will review some literature on stretching and how it effects performance.
The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed 23 different studies that looked into stretching and its effects on performance. The studies focused on static stretching immediately before an exercise or event and regular stretching for weeks, months, and days before an event. Immediate stretching is defined as stretching right before an event, for example holding a quad stretch before sprinting or doing the splits before the pro shuttle run. Regular stretching is defined as stretching a muscle 30-60 seconds at least 2-3 times a week. According to the study, ‘Does Stretching Improve Performance,’ stretching prior to an exercise that requires isolated force or power shows a decrease in performance results, such as weightlifting, jumping, and short sprints. The study also concluded that the effect that immediate stretching has on running speed remains undetermined.
There were no studies that suggested regular stretching could decrease performance however it is suggested that a regular stretching routine will improve the performance of all activities including running speed. This is similar to the fact that there is no decrease in the risk of injury if you stretch right before an exercise, but a regular stretching routine may decrease the risk of injury. So, if you stretch, it should be dynamic. You should wait to static stretch after the workout or exercise session. Static stretching immediately before an event could cause a decrease in performance