Skip navigation

Tag Archives: static stretching

David Behm is one of my favorite authors. He often takes a critical look at our assumptions regarding strength training and performs extensive literature reviews that cause you to rethink assumptions. In the past he has written reviews on velocity specificity, the neural effects of strength training, and core training all of which are thought-provoking articles. The challenge has been that he tends to publish in journals that are not as accessible to most coaches and practitioners. In the November issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology, David Behm and Anis Chaouachi perform a literature review looking at the impact of static and dynamic stretching on performance.

The literature review begins by providing the historical background. Thirty years ago we would have been recommending a warm-up that includes submaximal aerobic exercise followed by 5-10 minutes of static stretching. The authors note that a few groundbreaking studies began chipping away at the belief that static stretching was beneficial during the warm-up. They then note that a significant number of studies report performance decreases in strength, power, and jumping measures as a result of static stretching. According to the authors, though, the results are not as clear-cut as many studies show no impact or improvement as a result of static stretching and there appears to be no consensus about its impact on sprinting and running.

To investigate this, the authors performed a literature review from 1989 to 2010 to look at the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. The results are interesting. Across studies, the authors found:
• An almost 7% decrease in strength and force as a result of static stretching as warm-up.
• An almost 3% decrease in jumping performance.
• An approximate 2% decrease in sprinting performance.
• There is a relationship between the length of the static stretch and the decrease in performance. Basically stretches held for greater than 90 seconds produce more a decrease in performance than those held for less (some studies have stretches being performed for up to 20 minutes).
• However, this information is not unanimous as there are studies looking at shorter duration stretches that show performance decreases in track and field athletes.

The authors make a number of recommendations:
• First, given the conflicting nature of the literature static stretching as warm-up for athletes should probably be minimized.
• Second, there are sports and positions in sports where static stretching as warm-up is going to be needed (the authors’ example is goaltending in hockey). When this is the case the static stretches should last less than 30 seconds for each muscle group.
• Third, if the goal is to increase range of motion, then there should be a separate static stretching session.

Behm, D.G. and Chaouachi, A. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111: 2633-2651.