Friday, September 19, 2008

Over-Reaction to Static Stretching

This is in response to a handful of my clients recently being told that static stretching before their workout is detrimental. Hop on the "Logic Train" and enjoy the ride!!

A constantly debated topic in the fitness industry is the use of static stretching. The popular statement that static stretching reduces force output has made individuals completely over-react to static stretching. Some trainers and coaches now avoid static stretching like the plague, especially the use of it before resistance training.

Many world class coaches use static stretching and use it before resistance training with great results. Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Joe DeFranco, Martin Rooney and many others all incorporate static stretching in their program design.

You must understand that it is NEVER the modality that is the problem.......It is the misunderstanding of how to USE the modality and the misinterpretation of research.

We use static stretching all the time and you know what? We use it BEFORE resistance training. I can hear the shrieking screams now!! Look at this logically. We know that static stretching has some inhibiting qualities to it. Basically if you static stretch a muscle, that muscle will be a little more relaxed for a short duration following the stretch. This is not really a bad thing. If someone has tight pecs, I could stretch their pecs and before doing a set of Rows in order to get more scapular retraction. I could also stretch someones hip flexors before they do a vertical jump in order to get the hip extensors to do their job without interference of the antagonist. So, the inhibition of the muscle was exactly what I was looking for. As you can see, it is not the modality that is the problem but rather not knowing how to use the modality.

A chainsaw is a great tool in a logger's hands but may be extremely dangerous in a 4 year olds hands.

The most popular time to do static stretching is post workout. This is fine but it only restores tissue length back to what it was before the workout. If you are looking to improve tissue length, stretch cold.......YES COLD. In fact, most soft tissue experts will tell you that if you want a structural change in the tissue you should stretch cold. And even better is to stretch directly after soft tissue work. This is exactly what we do. Foam roll first followed by static stretching.

Also understand that we do not stretch and then maximally lift a weight. Here is the order of our programming:

1. Soft-tissue work
2. Static stretch
(commonly tight areas, ex: hip flexors, lateral hamstring, adductors, pecs, hip rotators)
3. Activation
4. Movement Prep
5. Speed
6. Power
(med ball, plyos, etc.)
7. Strength
8. Condition

By the time we are strength training, it has been nearly 30 minutes since we have stretched. Do you seriously think that we are going to have negative benefits on our force output 30 minutes later??? Feel free to come into our gym and watch one of our fighters do some static stretching.........then have him kick you in the head and see if he has lost his strength and power. When you wake up from your reality check I will have a delicious protein recovery drink waiting for you :-)

"Do you wanna tell GSP that stretching is making him weak?"

Really we could make any research support a belief. If I tested your 3RM in the bench press and then immediately tested your 5RM, you would be significantly weaker. SHAZAAM!! We just provided research that says "Strength training makes you weaker"!!

Note: Go to Pubmed and re-read the research