Do you ever feel sore after exercise and think… ‘if only I did more stretching!’
So many of us have been taught the importance of stretching from a young age, but all might not be as it seemed.
Jasleigh has recently looked into the evidence about the impact that stretching might have on injury prevention, performance, recovery and specific sporting ability. Here is a short and sharp summary of the literature about some common stretching questions.
Let’s start by defining stretching a little. ‘Stretching’ is essentially just moving part of your body as far as it goes in a certain direction. One bit of your body stays still, the other moves away! This process is normally limited by muscles or other soft tissues (ie not bones) as they reach their maximum achievable length (at that point in time).
A ‘stretched’ position can then be held (static) or you can move in and out of that position (dynamic).
Now that bit is settled... check out the information on stretching below:
4 Stretching Questions…
1. Does stretching before exercise stop you getting injured?
It is a common belief that stretching reduces or prevents injuries in sport, however research has shown this not to be the case. What has been shown to prevent injuries is by doing a warm up before exercise or sport. (Jamtvedt et al., 2010; Andersen, 2005; Bracko, 2002; Rosenbaum, 1995)
2. Does stretching improve performance?
Static stretching is often a part of peoples warm ups, however it has been found to have negative effects on explosive and maximal strength performance, balance and reaction time. Dynamic stretching however has been shown to have better performance outcomes during warm ups. (La Torre et al, 2010; Ebadi & Cetin, 2018; McMillan et al., 2006; Behm et al., 2004; Behm et al, 2001; McMillan et al., 2006; Little & Williams, 2006).
3. Does stretching help you recover?
Stretching is thought to aid in recovery from exercise, however research reports that it has no significantly statistical influence on muscle recovery or muscle soreness. Some research does show stretching improves perceived feeling of stiffness and generally body aching after exercise, suggesting that stretching may be useful from a psychological, rather than physiological perspective. (Herbert, 2007; Torres et al., 2013; Jamtvedt et al., 2010; Weerapong, 2004)
4. What does stretching achieve?
Some sports require an increased range of motion to perform at a high level (e.g. swimmers, baseball pitchers, gymnasts etc). There is evidence to suggest that stretching may improve general flexibility without negatively impacting acute performance as stated in point 2. (Behm & Chaouachi, 2011; Behm, 2006)
The Take Home Message!
If you enjoy stretching or you need extra flexibility for your sport then static stretching may be useful for you to do, but maybe consider not doing before exercise or sport.
During warm ups, dynamic stretching has been shown to be more useful than static stretching
B.ExSci, M.Phty Studies
Jasleigh is a masters qualified physiotherapist with a previous degree in exercise physiology and massage therapy. Jasleigh is currently the Head Physiotherapist to Samford Rangers. Working with a team of 4 therapists across 4 squads.
Andersen, J. C. (2005). Stretching before and after exercise: Effect on muscle soreness and injury risk. Journal of Athletic Training, 40(3), 218-20.
Behm, D. G., Bambury, A., Cahill, F., & Power, K. (2004). Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 36, 1397-1402.
Behm, D. G., Button, D. C., & Butt, J. C. (2001). Factors affecting force loss with prolonged stretching. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26(3), 262-272.
Behm, D. G., Bradbury, E. E., Haynes, A. T., Hodder, J. N., Leonard, A. M., & Paddock, N. R. (2006). Flexibility is not related to stretch-induced deficits in force or power. Journal of sports science & medicine, 5(1), 33.
Behm, D. G., & Chaouachi, A. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European journal of applied physiology, 111(11), 2633-2651.
Bracko, M. R. (2002). Can Stretching Prior to Exercise and Sports Improve Performance and Prevent Injury?. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 6(5), 17-hyhen.
Ebadi LA and Cetin, E (2018) Duration dependent effect of static stretching on Quadriceps and Hamstring Muscle Force. Sports 2018, 6, 24; doi:10.3390
Herbert, R. D., & de Noronha, M. (2007). Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4.
Jamtvedt, G., Herbert, R. D., Flottorp, S., Odgaard-Jensen, J., Håvelsrud, K., Barratt, A., ... & Oxman, A. D. (2010). A pragmatic randomised trial of stretching before and after physical activity to prevent injury and soreness. British journal of sports medicine, 44(14), 1002-1009.
La Torre et al. (2010) Acute effects of static stretching on squat jump performance at different knee starting angles. J Strength Cond Res. Mar;24(3):687-94
Little, T., & Williams, A. G. (2006). Effects of differential stretching protocols during warm-ups on high-speed motor capacities in professional soccer players.The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(1), 203-307.
McMillian, D. J., Moore, J. H., Hatler, B. S., & Taylor, D. C. (2006). Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(3), 492-499.
Rosenbaum, D., & Hennig, E. M. (1995). The influence of stretching and warm‐up exercises on Achilles tendon reflex activity. Journal of sports sciences,13(6), 481-490.
Torres, R., Pinho, F., Duarte, J. A., & Cabri, J. M. H. (2013). Effect of single bout versus repeated bouts of stretching on muscle recovery following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 16(6), 583-8.
Weerapong, P., Hume, P. A., & Kolt, G. S. (2004). Stretching: mechanisms and benefits for sport performance and injury prevention. Physical Therapy Reviews, 9(4), 189-206.