Recent research has argued against static stretching before competition/training in favor of dynamic stretching. I remember static and dynamic stretching as part of the pre-game warm-ups all the way back to my pee-wee football and tee-ball days. I can still clearly recall running a lap around the field and then lining up and performing a variety of stretches with my 6-year-old buddies. Was it so wrong?
Static stretching is a technique of stretching that involves holding a challenging position where a muscle is stretched to the end range of the motion for 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Static stretching is a commonly practiced in the fitness and health industry with the intent of promoting flexibility and decreasing injury risk. Static stretching can be an effective way to improve range of motion in a muscle or joint and increase flexibility throughout the entire body.
Dynamic stretching involves moving joints and/or muscles through a repetitive range of motion measured generally by repetitions or distance. Dynamic stretching involves more active and sports specific movements that can increase blood flow to active muscles, increase heart rate and reduce stiffness. Dynamic stretching has also been shown to increase nerve-impulses in the active or contracting muscle.
Static and Dynamic stretching both play a part in overall performance. Although recent studies have shown static stretching before or after performance and/or competition may actually decrease power output and may not be effective against delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS), it still has its place. Static stretching benefits are maximized when stretching occurs in bouts separate from competition or training regiments. On the other hand, dynamic stretching benefits are best utilized before competitions or any type of training. Adding dynamic stretching to a warm-up can mentally and physically prepare the athlete(s) for the demands of the upcoming event. When it comes to stretching, it is important to understand the difference between the two stretches and when they can be best utilized. If implemented properly, both static and dynamic stretching both have their place in sustaining and increasing overall performance.