Stretching has been used in all sports, particularly static stretching5. Static stretching is when a muscle is held at end range of motion (ROM) for a period of time in order to increase ROM and flexibility2. The traditional thought regarding the benefit of static stretching is that it may improve range of motion (ROM), decrease delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), reduce the risks of injury and enhance muscle performance. Despite these long held thoughts, recent evidence remains equivocal in the benefit of static stretching. Herbert et al. reported that static stretching before or after exercising has no effect on delayed muscle soreness, but shows a decrease in the risk of injury by 5% 9. Witvrouw et al. conveyed that static stretching programs can significantly influence the viscosity of the tendon and make it significantly more compliant, which may in turn prevent injury in sports with high demands of stretch-shortening cycle 21. Bandy et al reported in their comparison of static stretching and dynamic range of motion of the hamstrings that gains in knee extension from static stretching for 30 seconds once daily for 5 days was almost 3 times the improvement of the dynamic range of motion group2. Moreover, Weijer et at. showed that after static stretching can significantly maintain increased hamstring length for 24 hours with one bout of 30 seconds hold for 3 repetitions 18. Harvey et al. in their system review showed that static stretching over the course of a day increase joint ROM by 8 degrees8. However, research has reported that static stretching to be detrimental to the muscular power aspect of an athletic performance.
Recent research has shown a decrease in muscle performance related to explosive motions such as sprinting and vertical jump. They conveyed that static stretching decreases muscular stiffness by decreasing muscle-length tension due to elongation of the muscle fibers and decrease muscle activation 3, 16, 20. Most of all, static stretching has shown to compromise force production (power) and force output 3, 16, 20. Winchester et al conveyed in their study that there was a 3% decrease in sprint performance at 40 m when the subjects participated in the static stretching protocol 20. Brady et al reported that static stretching decreased the benefits from general warm-up when performed immediately before a vertical jump test3.
Static stretching can be a useful warm-up and mental readiness tool for competition and athletic testing, but should not be performed before an explosive movement. Also, research reports that static stretching has been shown to increase muscle length if performed over a period of time.
This information shows that static stretching needs to be implemented and be the focus of training within the off-season and pre-season conditioning program for the optimal benefit for the athlete. Overall, the results of this study are appealing to coaches and trainers, because they provided information on the pros and cons of static stretching and its effects on explosive motions like the vertical jump.
Contributing authors: Dr/ Marvin P. Royal II, PT, DPT, CSCS, CMP, NASM-CPT, RABS, Dr. Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT,DPT,MS,OCS,MTC,Cert.MDT, Dr. Paul Glenn, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
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