Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review.
Simic L, Sarabon N, Markovic G.Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2012 Feb 8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01444.x. [Epub ahead of print]
In a previous post here at SMR we have covered the outcomes of static and dynamic stretching on performance tasks and how they are affected. Traditionally we have been taught to perform static stretches to increasing ROM and reduce injury before activity. However, what if static stretching has a negative impact on performance? Simic et al. conducted a meta-analytical study to quantitatively combine the results of previous individual static stretch-related articles and estimate the acute effects on muscle strength (peak force, torque or 1 rep max either isokinetic or isometric), power, and explosive muscular performance [categorized as rate of force development, jump, sprint and throwing performance]. They took their analysis one step further by trying to determine if the acute effects were specific to A) subject attributes (age, gender and training status [athlete versus non-athlete]) B) performance tests utilized and C) the time duration of the applied static stretch (SS). For this study, a literature search was conducted across multiple online databases focusing on published journal articles that reported on healthy human subjects, SS effects on muscular power, strength and explosiveness, SS lasting < 30 min and written in English. The authors were able to find 104 articles that met their criteria, from which they were able to extract data and statistically standardize. After data analysis the authors were able to determine significant decreases in muscular strength (-5.4%), and explosive muscular performance (-2.0%) after acute bouts of SS, but the decrease in muscle power (-1.9%) was not deemed statistically significant. In regards to muscle strength, there was a significant difference when comparing the strength reduction of the isometric and isokinetic tasks, with isometric tests experiencing a greater decrease in strength than isokinetic tests(-6.5% vs. -3.9%). The decrease in muscle strength and explosive muscular performance was found to be irrespective of subject age, gender and training status. While the decrease in muscle power didn't reach significance, the authors believe that this is an area that should be focused on during future research based upon the limited amount of data available. The authors also noticed a significant reduction in the negative effects on explosive muscular performance as the duration of SS stays under 45 seconds.
Is there still a place for static stretch in pre-exercise warm-up based upon these results? One item to note is the length of the static stretch. Simic was able to find a decreased negative effect when stretching was kept under 45 sec/muscle group. Many times the individual will stretch a specific area for much shorter than that time period, often times to a 10-count. So in truth, to what extent are we seeing negative effects on performance? With the reductions in muscular strength, power and explosive muscle performance the authors state these results can be applied to both young and old populations, males and females, as well as athletes versus non-athletes. If their analysis is accurate, then these findings can conceivably be instituted for all active individuals. Furthermore, they go on to state these findings “strongly suggest that the usage of SS as the sole activity during warm-up routine should generally be avoided.” However, most structured warm-ups that higher level athletes engage in today are not centered around static stretching There is a balance between both SS and dynamic stretching prior to activity, but should we now begin to think about restructuring not only our warm-up sessions but also warm (cool)-down components, as well? Removing the SS portion of the warm-up can conceivably minimize or eliminate the negative effects that SS will have on these studied performance elements, while focusing on SS during warm-down may allow the individual to still gain ROM and prevent injury before going into the next session. What are your thoughts? How do you structure the warm-up and cool-down elements of your athletes’ activities? If your athletes aren't engaging in any form of structured cool-down, do you believe, based upon these findings that they should begin to do so?
Written by: Mark Rice
Reviewed by: Stephen Thomas
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Simic L, Sarabon N, & Markovic G (2012). Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports PMID: 22316148