Should You Do Static Stretching Prior To Sprinting? Not if you want to run your fastest, and here’s why.
Review performed by Mike Martin, JMU Graduate Strength & Conditioning Intern
Previously thought to be crucial to an athlete’s pre-event warm up, static stretching has recently been found to actually reduce the production of muscle force (1,5), and more specifically; vertical jump performance (2,4), running speed (11), drop-jump performance (17), and power output (1). On the other hand dynamic stretching/warm-up (a method of including flexibility training into sport or exercise-specific movements) appears to be credible as a valid pre-event warm up (7,8,10). A dynamic warm-up has been reported to increase power output (13, 14), sprint performance (6), counter movement jump height, and rate of force development (17) compared to static stretching.
A recent study coming out of Louisiana State University by Winchester et.al., lends support to the use of a dynamic warm-up over one that utilizes static stretching. Winchester studied 11 male and 11 female Division 1 track athletes from the LSU track & field team (these are very good athletes) and the effects of a dynamic warm-up followed by static stretching or rest on 20 and 40 meter sprint times. Each athlete performed the same dynamic warm up: 800 meter slow jog, leg swings ,body weight squats, high knees, A and B skips, hurdle mobility drills, 30 meter lateral shuffles, backwards runs and tuck jumps for a total duration of about 30 minutes. Athletes were then separated into two groups; a no stretch group (NS) and a static stretching (SS) group. The SS group performed four passive stretches for the calf, quadriceps, hamstring and hip muscles for 30 seconds each, per leg, and they repeated that cycle 3 times. Following either the NS or SS period (Note: all athletes participated in both the NS and SS groups in two different sessions, one week apart) , the athletes performed three 40 meter sprints with 5 minutes rest between trials. The authors reported mean times for the athlete’s 20 meter sprints to be 2.41 ± 0.21 seconds following SS and 2.38 ± 0.35 seconds following NS, which was a statistically significant (p≤0.05) difference. The mean times for the athlete’s 40 meter sprints were 5.7 ± .4 seconds following SS and 5.6 ± .4 seconds following NS which was also a statistically significant (p≤0.05) difference (16). In essence, the 40 meter times were 3% slower for the athletes following static stretching compared to the dynamic warm up with no stretching (16).
Currently, the exact reasons as to why static stretching appears to have a negative impact on power production are unclear. However some studies have found that static stretching may reduce musculotendinous stiffness (9,13) thus reducing force production in the contractile component of the muscle (15). Additionally, static stretching may inhibit myoelectric potentiation (a stretch reflex that increases muscle activation) therefore reducing force production (3,12).
Questions do still remain as to whether or not the duration of static stretching (i.e. time length of the stretch) may impact force production differently and if the time period after stretching, before the actual activity takes place, has an impact on force production. However, based on the research, it seems advisable to replace static stretching with a dynamic warm up for activities that require maximum force production and speed.
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2. BEHM, D.G., E.E. BRADBURY, A.T. HAYNES, J.H. HODDLER, A.M.LEONARD, AND N.R. PADDOCK. Flexibility is not related to stretch-induced deficits in force or power. J. Sports Sci. Med. 5:33-42, 2006.
3. BOSCO, C., T.T. VITASALO, P.V. KOMI, AND P. LUHTANEN. Combined effect of elastic energy and myoelectrical potentiation during stretch-shortening cycle exercise. Acta. Physiol. Scand. 114:557-565, 1982.
4. CHURCH, J.B., M.S. WIGGINS, F.M. MOODE, AND R. CRIST. Effect of warm-up and flexibility treatments on vertical jump performance. J. Strength Cond. Res. 15:332-336, 2001.
5. EVETOVICH, T.K., N.J. NAUMAN, D.S. CONLEY, AND J.B. TODD. Effect of static stretching of the biceps brachii on torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography during concentric isokinetic muscle actions. J. Strength Cond. Res. 17:484-488, 2003.
6. FLETCHER, I.M., AND B. JONES. The effect of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 meter sprint performance in trained rugby union players. J. Strength Cond. Res. 18(4):885-888, 2004.
7. HEDRICK, A. Dynamic flexibility training. Strength Cond. J. 22:33-38, 200.
8. KOKKONEN, J., A.G. NELSON, AND A. CORNWELL. Acute muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performances. Res. Q. Exerc. Sport. 69:411-415, 1998.
9. MAGNUSSON, P.S., E.B. SIMONSEN, P. AAGAARD, AND M. KJAER. Biomechanical responses to repeated stretches in human hamstring muscle in vivo. Am. J. Sports Med. 24:622-628, 1996.
10. NELSON, A.G., AND J. KOKKONEN. Acute ballistic muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performance. Res. Q. Exerc. Sport. 72:415-419, 2001.
11. NELSON, A.G., N.M. DRISCOLL, D.K. LANDIN, M.A. YOUNG, AND I.C. SCHEXNAYDER. Acute effects of passive muscle stretching on sprint performance. J. Sports Sci. 23:449-454, 2005.
12. O’CONNOR, D., M. CROWE, AND W. SPINKS. Warm-up exercises and leg power. J. Sci. Med. Sport 5:54-60, 2002.
13. ROSENBAUM, D. AND E.M. HENNING. The influence of stretching and warm-up exercises on Achilles tendon reflex activity. J. Sport Sci. 13:481-490, 1995.
14. STEWART, D., A. MACALUSO, AND G. DEVITO. The effect of an active warm-up on surface EMG and muscle performance in healthy humans. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 89:509-514, 2003.
15. WILSON, G.J., A.J. MURPHY, AND J.F. PRYOR. Musculotendinous stiffness: its relationship to eccentric, isometric, and concentric performance. J. Appl. Physiol. 76:2714-2719, 1994.
16. WINCHESTER, J.B., A.G. NELSON, D. LANDIN, M.A. YOUNG, AND I.C. SCHEXNAYDER. Static Stretching impairs sprint performance in collegiate track and field athletes. J. Strength Cond. Res. 22(1): 13-18, 2008.
17. YOUNG, W.B., AND D.G. BEHM. Effects of running, static stretching and practice jumps on explosive force production and jumping performance. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fit. 43:21-27, 2003
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