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STATIC STRETCHING: IS IT WORTH IT?

“Is static stretching actually worthwhile and when should it be completed”

This is a really loaded subject across a lot of allied health fields, however as the health and fitness world is ever changing in its research and clinical findings, so is all our views and practices.

I’ll start off by saying this - the narrative of static stretching prior to training/sports by aimlessly holding a passive stretch for 30s each side, should be thrown out the window!

Long story short - we need to look at 2 views of static stretching:


*first one being the acute effects of static stretching.

These have been studied over and over again in recent years and some musculoskeletal conclusions they’ve found included:

  • Decreases the visco-elastic behaviour of muscle and tendon only on the short term with no long term effect (Shrier, I 2004)

  • Decreases the activity of a motor unit (Rubini EC , Costa AL , Gomes PS 2007)

  • Decreases the activity of muscle spindles (receptors within muscles that give feedback about muscle length and rate of change in muscle length), which results in decreasing the activity of stretch reflex (Micheal A. ,Scott C, 2011)

  • Decreases in sensitivity of nociceptors and joint receptors which are fundamental mechanisms for the protection of structures involved in motion (Rubini EC , Costa AL , Gomes PS 2007)

*the second view being the “regular” or long-term effects of stretching.

  • clinical findings of this found that “REGULAR STATIC STRETCHING that it improves force and performance in activities and that some underlying mechanism induced muscle hypertrophy (Shrier, I 2004) e.g. stretching a muscle group for 30-60 seconds over months resulted in hypertrophy.

So, essentially what all this is getting at is that static stretching PRIOR to activity/game/training etc doesn’t have an hugely positive impact, or as much as what you’d think it would anyway.

Collectively all these acute changes in the muscle can lead to decrease in force production, performance and potentially increase in the risk of injury!

If you’re wanting to “stretch” before training or game play - be dynamic and active about, and DO IT WITH INTENT!

This simply means:

-focus on WHAT you’re moving

-WHY you’re moving that muscle (what action does it have? what movement does it do in your particular sport/training?)

-HOW you’re doing it (are you just aimlessly holding a position and not really feeling anything? are you feeling A LOT and just chasing that “good hurty stretch” feeling?)

POST game/training however, can be somewhat more beneficial!

As now is the time where you DON’T require motor units, neuromuscular engagement, force production, output etc, it’s more about returning your body back to a resting state (blood pressure, heart rate etc) to which static stretching can help you just generally wind down, and even feel good!

Static stretching has a relaxation and elongation effect on muscle which (in a passive manner) can improve range of motion, decrease musculotendinous (where the muscle and tendon join) stiffness and also reduces the risk of acute muscle strain injuries. It’s a slow controlled movement with emphasis on postural awareness and body alignment.

More often than not, this type of stretching is widely more applicable to people of different abilities.

So all in all, static stretching does still have it’s place, I personally think that WHERE that place in sports/athletic performance is needs to be revisited and re-educated to people for any full benefits to be seen and felt.

THIS ISN’T TO SAY “DON’T STATICALLY STRETCH BEFORE YOU DO ANY ACTIVITY”

This is just to think a bit more openly and discuss the diverse benefits of different kinds of stretching (static, dynamic, PNF etc) and which of these models is most beneficial for you as an individual, as an athlete or as someone who just wants to improve their musculoskeletal function.

My advice is:

  • pre activity: think dynamic, think active, move with intent!

  • post activity: think recovery, winding down and listen to your body!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, follow up with your preferred allied health guru or S&C coach/PT.


-I Shrier . Does Stretching Improve Performance?: A Systematic and Critical Review of the Literature. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: Sep 2004 :14(5) : 267-273

-Rubini EC , Costa AL , Gomes PS .The Effects of Stretching on Strength Performance . Sports Medicine. March 2007 :37(3): 213-24

-Kay AD, Blazevich AJ. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®. Jan 2012 1;44(1):154-64 (last accessed 3.6.2019)

-Wicke, Jason; Gainey, Kamar; Figueroa, Michael A Comparison of Self-administered Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation to Static Stretching on Range of Motion and Flexibility, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Jan 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 1 - p 168-172

-Micheal A. ,Scott C. NASM's Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training. Philadelphia : Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2011

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