Static Stretching Takes Static

How many times have you been told that it is important to perform static stretching, after a proper warm-up, before a race or workout? You have been told to hold a gentle stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and then release.

This type of stretching has been the standard recommendation for many years. Now, the latest research is questioning that practice. Recent research is suggesting that this type of stretching before a race or important workout may actually result in decreased performance.

It is believed that the static stretching may decrease the muscles ability to generate the explosive power needed for top performance in a race or important workout. These recent findings have led top coaches and sports scientists to suggest that athletes perform static stretching at least 60 minutes before the start of any competition, if at all. A better alternative may be to perform dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching is basically a controlled, moving stretch. Rotating your shoulders in a windmill fashion is one example of a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretches of importance to runners would be high knee running, high heel kicks, lunges, squat stretches and bicycle kicks.

This does not mean that static stretching should never be performed. It would still be beneficial to perform static stretching after the race or workout. The muscle will be very warm and maximal flexibility can be achieved. In addition, static stretching is thought to improve recovery, decrease soreness and help prevent injury.

Keep in mind that dynamic stretching is not the same as ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching is a smooth, motion based stretch. Ballistic stretching is a bouncing, rebounding type stretch that puts excessive tension and stress on the muscles and connective tissues. While this type of stretching can be used effectively for some athletes, it should be avoided because of the risk of injury.