T Nation

In Favor of Static Stretching before Lifting


#1

Serious question: Why would you want to stretch out after lifting?

You've just torn the hell out of your muscles, causing all sorts of microtrauma. If you did the job properly, you should be in considerable pain.

And now...you're going to stretch out those miniature tears and cause even more pain? What the hell is that? And how on earth is it supposed to increase your flexibility?

Whenever the body is in pain, the stretch reflex fires and the muscles will not relax. That's why static stretching after lifting is a PISS POOR idea, in all honesty.

I bring this up because it was mentioned on another board and it's one of the widely held tenets of lifting that I've never been able to understand.

As far as "force generation" is concerned: We all know the body is a kinetic chain. We've all read articles about poor posture and poor mobility leading to reduced power output.

So, if stretching contributes to pain free ROM, thereby increasing mobility, then how could this possibly NOT translate to increased power output?

You're telling me that you can produce more power when you're stiff as a brick and can barely move? Bullshit, I don't buy it. Power and flexibility go hand in hand. Look at any sprinter.

Question the dogma that says you shouldn't static stretch before lifting. If the explanation for a claim doesn't make sense, and you're familiar with the topic, then the claim is usually bullshit.


#2

PubMed:

1.J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1416-21.

The effect of static stretching on phases of sprint performance in elite soccer players.

Sayers AL, Farley RS, Fuller DK, Jubenville CB, Caputo JL.

Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, USA. asayers@mtsu.edu

The purpose of this study was to determine which phase of a 30-m sprint (acceleration and/or maximal velocity) was affected by preperformance static stretching. Data were collected from 20 elite female soccer players.

On two nonconsecutive days, participants were randomly assigned to either the stretch or no-stretch condition. On the first day, the athletes in the no-stretch condition completed a standard warm-up protocol and then performed three 30-m sprints, with a 2-minute rest between each sprint.

The athletes in the stretch condition performed the standard warm-up protocol, completed a stretching routine of the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles, and then immediately performed three 30-m sprints, also with a 2-minute rest between each sprint.

On the second day, the groups were reversed, and identical procedures were followed. One-way repeated-measures analyses of variance revealed a statistically significant difference in acceleration (p < 0.0167), maximal-velocity sprint time (p < 0.0167), and overall sprint time (p < 0.0167) between the stretch and no-stretch conditions.

Static stretching before sprinting resulted in slower times in all three performance variables. These findings provide evidence that static stretching exerts a negative effect on sprint performance and should not be included as part of the preparation routine for physical activity that requires sprinting.

  1. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May;22(3):809-17.

    Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography of the biceps femoris muscle.

    Herda TJ, Cramer JT, Ryan ED, McHugh MP, Stout JR.

    Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA. tjh@ou.edu

    The purpose of this study was to examine the acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on peak torque (PT) and electromyographic (EMG), and mechanomyographic (MMG) amplitude of the biceps femoris muscle (BF) during isometric maximal voluntary contractions of the leg flexors at four different knee joint angles.

Fourteen men ((mean +/- SD) age, 25 +/- 4 years) performed two isometric leg flexion maximal voluntary contractions at knee joint angles of 41 degrees , 61 degrees , 81 degrees , and 101 degrees below full leg extension. EMG (muV) and MMG (m x s(-2)) signals were recorded from the BF muscle while PT values (Nm) were sampled from an isokinetic dynamometer.

The right hamstrings were stretched with either static (stretching time, 9.2 +/- 0.4 minutes) or dynamic (9.1 +/- 0.3 minutes) stretching exercises. Four repetitions of three static stretching exercises were held for 30 seconds each, whereas four sets of three dynamic stretching exercises were performed (12-15 repetitions) with each set lasting 30 seconds.

PT decreased after the static stretching at 81 degrees (p = 0.019) and 101 degrees (p = 0.001) but not at other angles. PT did not change (p > 0.05) after the dynamic stretching. EMG amplitude remained unchanged after the static stretching (p > 0.05) but increased after the dynamic stretching at 101 degrees (p < 0.001) and 81 degrees (p < 0.001).

MMG amplitude increased in response to the static stretching at 101 degrees (p = 0.003), whereas the dynamic stretching increased MMG amplitude at all joint angles (p </= 0.05). These results suggested that the decreases in strength after the static stretching may have been the result of mechanical rather than neural mechanisms for the BF muscle.

Overall, an acute bout of dynamic stretching may be less detrimental to muscle strength than static stretching for the hamstrings.

  1. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):13-9.

    Static stretching impairs sprint performance in collegiate track and field athletes.

Winchester JB, Nelson AG, Landin D, Young MA, Schexnayder IC.

Department of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. jwinch2@lsu.edu

Previous research has shown that static stretching (SS) can diminish the peak force output of stretch-shortening cycle actions while performing a dynamic warm-up (DW) protocol has been shown to enhance performance in similar activities.

The purpose of this study was to establish whether the deleterious effects of SS would wash out the performance enhancements obtained from the DW. Eleven males and 11 females, who were athletes of a NCAA Division I track team, performed a DW followed with either a SS or rest (NS) condition.

After warm-up was completed, three 40 m sprints were performed to investigate the effects of the SS condition on sprint performance when preceded by DW. Time(s) were obtained from timing gates placed at 0, 20, and 40 m respectively. Testing was conducted over 2 days with a 1 week washout period.

Testing order was balanced to eliminate possible order effect. Time for the NS versus the SS group was significantly faster for the second 20 m with a time of 2.41 versus 2.38 seconds (P < or = .05), and for the entire 40 m with a time of 5.6 +/- 0.4 versus 5.7 +/- 0.4 seconds (P < or = .05).

The results of this study suggest that performing a SS protocol following a DW will inhibit sprint performance in collegiate athletes.


#3

Google "fascia stretching"

Edit: Some people don't believe this is real or it works...whether it does or doesn't I believe that it does and therefore it gets me to stretch. If it wasn't for this I would never stretch, and that's not good...so I'll keep doing things the way I am.


#4

All I know is that if I don't stretch certain body parts (ie calves and quads) my joints (knees) start to bother me.

Plus the fascia stretching is a nice thought, too.


#5

Correct static stretching involves taking a muscle to it's normal range or motion (when the "stretch reflex" gets tripped) and then wait in that position until the nervous system eventually stops triggering the stretch reflex and the muscle relaxes.

You then increase the stretch more, until again the stretch reflex is triggered, wait until it relaxes and continue this process until you actually feel pain, numbness, or spasms.

At this point you want to terminate the stretch, as you're not going to be able to go any further into the stretch safely.

Other forms of stretching (like PNF) involve contracting the desired muscle isometrically and then using the contrast in tension/fatigue of the muscle to be stretched, to allow you to reach a greater ROM.

Both PNF and static stretching have more to do with overriding the nervous system than they do with actually elongating the muscle itself.

Extreme/weighted stretching is designed to stretch the fascia/connective tissues surrounding the muscles, which is the same concept behind soft tissue work (foam rolling, deep tissue massage, ART).

No, it's not. And no the stretch reflex fires when the golgi tendon organs sense that there is too much tension in the muscle. This is a protective mechanism to protect the body from injuring itself.

Stretching after your workout means that your muscles will be less able to resist the stretch, not to mention that the muscles are already plenty warmed-up which makes it easier to move them through a full ROM.

It can be beneficial to perform static stretches prior to working out in certain contexts. For instance, it would be okay to stretch out the chest/shoulders prior to squatting if it made it easier to position yourself under the bar.

But, stretching the muscle(s) you are about to train is a bad idea. It doesn't translate to increased power output because static stretching is basically telling the nervous system to relax and basically decreases the nervous system's ability to stimulate the muscles to contract.

No one is saying not to do mobility work priot to training. But there are other methods of improving mobility that don't hinder force production. Such as active flexibility drills, and performing a proper movement specific warm-up (basically "ramping" your sets, starting out with a very light weight and working through the full ROM, then gradually adding weight until you reach your "working" weight).

It's not a matter of static stretching or nothing, or that static stretching is the only method of improving mobility.

Question it all you want, heck do static stretching before you lift if you truly believe it helps you. But if you understand the physiology behind static stretching, or have actually ever properly performed static stretching, then you'll know that there are better ways of improving mobility prior to working out.


#6

I do it because it has helped me break through plateus in bringing up weak spots like my upper chest...also strength and size plateus have also been busted.

I do it because it works.

DG


#7

Static stretching Gerdy, or weighted/extreme stretching?


#8

NP, do you not read current research?

It's been shown that stretching prior to activity, does not help prevent injury and actually causes a decrease in strength. think about it, you're relaxing the muscle.

now, a dynamic warm-up is completely different than static stretching, and that will warm you up while preparing your body for activity.

you're a trainer right? I'm flabbergasted at some of your posts.


#9

whoops my bad. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

good catch sentoguy. lol

DG


#10

I read it, and then I ignore it in favor of my own research and my own conclusions.

Let's get real. 98% of the stuff on Pubmed has no meaningful application to weight training. I dread the people who live by that stuff and insist on pasting it onto every thread.

You're not explaining this in enough detail to justify your argument. First, stretching doesn't necessarily have any acute effect on muscle tonicity. The most basic effect of stretching is physical elongation of all tissues (not only muscle) and the promotion of blood flow.

Second, muscles are always in a neurologically "relaxed" state prior to being activated, but this says nothing about their length.

Well, I happen to do both. First, I physically elongate the tissues surrounding a joint, and then I take that joint through it's full range of motion through active (dynamic) drills. This makes perfect sense to me.

I go against the grain on a regular basis. What flabbergasts you, besides this thread? The fact that I'm pro-saturated fat, anti-carb? That I endorse isolation training on machines? Those are probably my most controversial viewpoints.

I'm aware of it and I believe it works. It's advocated by DC trainees, for example. But fascia stretching proves the point I'm making here, which is that stretching is a way of subjecting your muscles to microtrauma.

This can certainly lead to increased hypertrophy, but NOT increased flexibility. That's why you're much better off stretching PRIOR to damaging your muscles.


#11

First of all, be careful about confusing the term "correct" with "academically proper". I know the textbook definitions. Is it "correct" not to eat more than 50g Protein/day because that's what the textbook claims? Is it correct that full squats are "bad for the knee's" because that's what textbooks claim?

Static stretching involves taking a muscle to the limit of it's normal ROM, which you did not mention. From there, you can either "wait for the nervous system to shut off", as the textbooks recommend, or you can simply physically elongate the tissues, the same as if you were performing body work on yourself.

I can assure you that the vast majority of people who stretch are using the second method.

PNF certainly does. Static stretching, not so much, for the reasons I mentioned. If you read Pavel Tsatsouline's book on stretching, one of the reasons why he doesn't like statics is because they "physically elongate the tissue", rather than making the nervous system tell it to relax. He doesn't like it because he's a PNF guy.

AND can also be the concept employed with passive static stretching. We're not too far apart on this issue.

Muscles can't relax when you're in pain. What I wrote was correct.

If your muscles are already able to move through a full ROM then you haven't got a flexibility problem, have you? It stands to reason that stretching at this time will have no acute benefit whatsoever.

I guess this boils down to whether we are stretching for acute or non-acute benefits. I stand on the side of the old school dogma in favoring acute benefits, while the new-fangled research says it should be done to condition the nervous system for chronic benefits.

Once again, it need not do such a thing. I have never noticed any "decreased power output" in workouts from prior static stretching.

Try telling someone who is perpetually in pain that "they'll be weaker" if they stretch before lifting. These people HAVE to stretch before or their bodies won't allow them to do anything.

I know. But I still advocate static stretches, along with active mobility drills.

"Data were collected from 20 elite female soccer players."

Oxymoron. This is why Pubmed is such a joke to people who actually train.

"On the first day, the athletes in the no-stretch condition completed a standard warm-up protocol."

Standard for whom? The aforementioned "elite female soccer players"? Or standard for a weight lifter who reads T-Nation, is in tune with his body, and understands basic principles of muscle physiology? These things make a difference.

"Fourteen men ((mean +/- SD) age, 25 +/- 4 years) performed two isometric leg flexion maximal voluntary contractions at knee joint angles of 41 degrees , 61 degrees , 81 degrees , and 101 degrees below full leg extension. EMG (muV) and MMG (m x s(-2)) signals were recorded from the BF muscle while PT values (Nm) were sampled from an isokinetic dynamometer."

In other words, nothing undertaken in this study had any resemblance to real life. Enough said.

Pubmed research studies: The art of saying nothing in as many words as possible.

My advice to anyone who enjoys reading this crap is to learn how to employ the empirical method in your own life, so that you won't be forced to rely on cheap sources to get your fix of pretending to be a scientist.


#12

Oh god people, you're seriously arguing with minimal prospect (thanks push, I think that was the best one yet) ?


#13

When did I mention textbooks? I'm talking about the correct (effective) way to utilize static stretching to improve ROM.

I said take the muscle to the point where the stretch reflex triggers, that is the limit of it's normal ROM. You can indeed try to physically elongate the tissues, but it's not going to result in much in terms of increased flexibility.

All it's going to do (especially if you are doing it prior to working out, not in a properly warmed-up state and with plenty of resistance from the muscles themselvs) is to either elongate connective tissues like ligaments (which you do not want) and isn't going to be all that effective even at that.

Yup. Which is why it's so rare to see someone who actually exhibits good flexibility.

I've trained with some of the best martial artists in the world, guys who can easily drop down into a splits, lay flat on their legs, pretty much stellar flexibility in all their joints. None of them advocates the second method.

I have read Tsatsouline's book, and he specifically states that the correct way to perform static stretching is the way I mentioned above. It is about telling the nervous system to relax, but it's more of a waiting out the stretch reflex than a telling. So perhaps that's what you meant?

Perhaps, but I would NEVER tell someone to do extreme/weighted stretching prior to working out.

Maybe, but it's not the issue. If you are in legitimate pain while stretching you aren't doing yourself any favors. You should feel tension while static stretching, not pain.

You misunderstood what I wrote. Stretching post workout will be more beneficial because:
1) the muscles are already sufficiently warmed-up, meaning the muscle fibers/connective tissues will have their best ability to be elongated safely and without injury.

2) the muscles themselves are fatigued, meaning less resistance from the stretch reflex

Besides, you aren't after only an acute effect from stretching; you also want a chronic effect. That's why techniques like PNF are superior to the way most people do static stretching, because it's the nervous system that determines ROM more than it is the actual length of the muscles themselves.

By retraining your nervous system to be comfortable with increased ROM's, you increase the ROM that you can comfortably move through.

You keep on believing that all you want. I've seen plenty of evidence to support that the chronic benefits focused stretching method is superior for improving flexibility.

Hey, like I said, if you want to do it, feel free.

Again, there are more ways to stretch than doing static stretching. Doing active flexibility/mobility drills and performing a proper warm-up is an effective way to improve mobility prior to working out that doesn't have the downfalls of static stretching (at that point in the workout).

And that's your choice. I don't and I know lots of other successful coaches that don't either. Do whatever gets results for you I guess.


#14

umm, you still didn't answer lol. I assume you mean weighted stretching, yes/no? Also what kind of load would someone use for a loaded stretch? A weight that you can comfortable hold for 30 seconds, or one that you may really struggle with to complete it? I have never really done any loaded stretches before, only PNF, static and foam rolling, so I figure I'd give this one a try.


#15

warm up sets help me more than any stretching prior to working out. If i try to stretch a cold muscle group, my stretching "range" is a lot worse cold than when warm...and i get warmed up by working out.

There are also other ways to increase your flexibility. I use to have a poor stretch with regard to getting to low squat position; however, i found that using a smith machine allowed me to use the wieght to force me down into a lower position while keeping my balance and proper posture. If one thinks about doing a stretch like this, it is more of "isometric" type stretch which is known for increasing strengh.

The same can be said for flys; flys allow me to stretch my chest beyond what i normally could because of the added wieght.

In general, stretching and the type of stretching is dependent on what you are trying to achieve. A bodybuilder may have a lot different stretching program than a person doing martial arts. I find my warmup sets to be more important than stretching.


#16

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#17

Seriously, do you have no idea how empirical research works?

"I then ignore it in favor of my own conclusions"

Your conclusions are shit then. Your sample, whether it's one or two or 20 is insufficient to conclude ANYTHING. Hell, none of those studies are sufficient to conclude anything. But the totality of the evidence, if we were to conduct a meta-analysis, would strongly support the notion that static stretching inhibits strength and power expression.

Like BBB said, I'm not bothered by questioning dogma. But you're not asking us to question dogma. You want everyone to accept that you're right, without demonstrating any corroborating information. Show me your evidence. Better yet, post that picture of yourself that you showed on the cross training thread. I think that should end this argument nicely.

Honestly, I still think you're a troll. No real human being could be at once this narcissistic and this stupid.


#18

NP: Speaking as someone who writes research articles on a regular basis, you have an embarrassing lack of understanding about scientific literature. For starters, there's no such thing as a 'Pubmed research study'. Pubmed is basically just a search tool that returns research articles that have been published in various scientific journals. While you can make some conclusions as to quality by the journal in which a study is published, bashing a 'pubmed research study' would be like bashing a 'google web page'. Additionally, being long-winded while not containing enough data is typically a basis for a paper to be rejected from a peer reviewed journal.

The fact that you make extreme claims about topics which you clearly do not understand undermines any claims you can make about the pros/cons of stretching routines. Or anything for that matter.


#19

Google "extreme stretching" or "myofascial stretching" and you're sure to find something by either Dante Trudell or John Parillo.

Duration is generally considered to be more important than actual load used, but it should be challenging to hold the stretched position for 60+ seconds. Once you hit a certain duration (I personally use 90 seconds), you add weight to the stretch and again start at 60 and work your way up in duration.


#20

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