I mentioned in a previous post that stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent injury. And that stretching following training reduces muscle soreness. So I recommended stretching following training. Now here’s one more reason to avoid stretching prior to exercising, especially if you plan to sprint or perform intervals.
In this recent study, researchers at Middle Tennessee State University examined the effect of static stretching prior to sprinting on three phases of sprint performance. The three phases included acceleration, maximal-velocity sprint time and overall sprint time.
On two non-consecutive days 20 elite female soccer players ran 30 meter sprints. Athletes were assigned to either a stretch or no-stretch group. On the first day, the soccer players in the no-stretch group performed their usual warm-up and then performed three sprints with two minute rests between sprints.
The soccer players in the stretch group also performed the usual warm-up but included static stretches for the hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. They too immediately performed three sprints with two minute rests between sprints. On the second day the groups followed the exact same procedures but the groups were reversed.
The researchers found that static stretching before sprinting caused slower times in all three phases and suggested that static stretching should not be included as preparation for any physical activities that require sprinting.
The take away message is not to avoid static stretching but to avoid stretching prior to interval training. The best time to stretch is following your workout as part of your cool-down. It’s a great way to restore tissue length. It will also help bring your body back to a state of rest and recovery. Try to focus on relaxing and lengthening the muscles that you had put under stress while working out.
Hat tip to Conditioning Research.