Stretching: Static vs Dynamic

Running Injuries Bend

Experts say stretching moves may be better for athletes than static poses

By Anne Aurand The Bulletin | July 25, 2013

Common thought has long been that a good stretch before a hard workout was the right thing to do. Stretching before any rigorous activity was supposed to reduce injury and improve performance.

However, some research suggests that stretching does neither.

According to a 2011 position paper from the American College of Sports Medicine, stretching does not prevent injuries, back pain or muscle soreness. And, according to the ACSM paper and local experts, stretching prior to activity can diminish muscle strength, power and sports performance.

It may be that we’ve been going about stretching all wrong.

The experts say there’s a time and a place for it. If done a certain way and at the appropriate time, it can be helpful. How and when you stretch appears to matter.

“…Dicharry said it takes regular, frequent stretching — for example, four to six times a week for about 10 weeks — to truly lengthen tissues and improve a joint’s mobility.”

Static versus dynamic

Static stretching is the kind most of us think of — stretching a muscle to its maximum length and holding the pose for up to 30 seconds. This practice, over time, can lengthen tight muscles and help improve joint mobility.

Dynamic stretching is when a person moves the joints and muscles through their full range of motion while stretching to the edge of flexibility. Think of doing deep leg lunges while moving across a room, with just a couple of seconds of pause at the deepest point of each lunge. Dynamic stretching can prepare the body for activity by stimulating the systems that will be called on. (Some don’t even call this stretching; they consider it one kind of a warmup.)

Scientists around the world have tried to measure the effects of static vs. dynamic stretching on all kinds of activities, from tennis serves to vertical leaps.

Research suggests that longer-duration static stretching before an activity can decrease strength and power. For example, one study shows that basketball players couldn’t jump as high for a period of time after static hamstring stretching.

However, such research often includes situations that are not realistic, said Lynn Millar, a professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. People don’t usually hold a long, deep stretch and then suddenly jump as high as they can, she said.

Besides, the physiological response to stretching is not one-size-fits all, she said. Genetics, age, fitness level, prior injuries and other factors can play into how stretching affects performance and injuries.

Full story originally published in the Bend Bulletin.