Static Stretching

I just spoke at a track & filed clinic that had a large number of high school coaches in attendance. I gave three talks, one on planning and organizing training and two on strength training. In each talk I spoke briefly about flexibility and stretching and in each talk I mentioned that static stretching during warm-up was a waste of time. The predictable reaction was one of how I can do that we will have a explosion of injuries if we don’t static stretch in warm-up. Wrong – the 15 minutes of static stretching actually may be causing injuries. That time could be so much better spent actually warming up and for preparing for the workout or competition. I don’t understand the infatuation with pre-exercise static stretching. It has not place. Static stretching and warm-up are not the same. Static stretching in warm-up has a calming effect, the opposite of what you want in warm-up. Warm-up should be active and dynamic; it should activate and prepare the body for the subsequent workout. Static stretching used to enhance flexibility should be placed at the end of the workout. It is placed there when the body is warm so that maximum return from the stretches can be achieved. Also that is the time when you want the body to be relaxed and calm. I understand that from an administrative point of view there is a tendency to rush and get it over with. Don’t, this is the time when the body is most ready to make significant flexibility gains. Another point is that stretching needs to be individualized, group stretching assumes everyone has the same flexibility needs. Therefore team stretching regardless of where it is placed is a waste of time. Each individual has specific needs that often times are chronic and need to be considered. The individual flexibility routines should be selected based on a musculoskeletal screen, coupled with Athletic Competency tests and performance indicator tests. This will go a long way to insure that flexibility gains transfer to performance. Once again it is not content but context. Stretching must be placed in the correct place in the workout for optimum results.


At 12/16/07, 1:44 AM, Blogger Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Vern great post today I also find this reaction when I work with teams and professional soccer players that have been doing this for years. After explaining and gaining trust they will warm up differently but at the onset of this change I was concerned re the psychological status of the players prior to game time as they were so use to the static stuff and the feedback was that they just didnt feel ready without it. To combat this at the end of each phase of the warm up I give players 30s to do what they want and I just keep reinforcing the waste of time issue of static stretching in the warm up and in time hopefully they will be able to do without any

At 12/16/07, 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the atlantic city conference and was surprised at the number of people still doing static stretching at the beginning of practice. I am a HS coach in NY and have been attending the M-F A.C. conference for about 8 years now. We haven't done static stretching in 8 years and have seen less injuries year after year. It took a little while to change the culture but now they wouldn't think of doing anything else before practice. I enjoyed your presentations this yeare very much. I think I am very well educated about the ways to do a dynamic warm-up and how to vary it.
I am however not so good at devising individual stretching programs for our cool down stretch sessions at the end of practice. How would you go about testing kids and which screenign tests woudl you use to devise static stretching programs for HS track athletes or any athletes?

Bryce DeSantis
Trumansburg Track and Field

At 12/19/07, 10:28 AM, Blogger Huw said...

hi Vern Great post as usual. I tried to convince the senior coach at the running club where I coach of this idea and met with the strongest resistance imaginable. And, since stretching for 10 mins before running had 'never done him any harm' he was even more certain that he would continue to static stretch his groups pre-workout. What is it that makes people stick so tightly to this particular myth?
Huw Davies, www.runflux.com


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