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Static vs Dynamic Stretching

As we enter the 2023 sporting season it is time to reflect on stretching and how we should stretch. If you look at any sports team, you often see the team warm up with a gentle jog followed by dynamic stretches, including leg swings and calf pumps then static stretches, such as holding a calf or hamstring stretch for 30 seconds. Static stretching has been performed as part of a warm up for as long as we can remember with the aim to improve performance and decrease injury risk.

Static stretching involves extending muscles to end range and holding that position for a period of time. Evidence shows that regular stretching of a muscle group for at least 60s per day over months improves force and performance in activities. Although this is helpful long term recent reviews found that static stretching within 30 minutes of exercise does not prevent injury and can actually lead to negative effects on muscle performance. Static stretching does this by decreasing muscle activity, causing a decrease in the stretch reflex, which in turn decreases the elasticity of the muscle and tendon.

Dynamic stretching involves a series of movements, aiming to actively move your joints and body through its full range of motion to warm up your muscles and body before exercising. The stretches aren’t held for any specific length of time, should be functional and mimic the movements of your specific sport. Dynamic stretching decreases injury risk using a variety of different mechanisms including increasing the temperature of your muscles, promoting blood flow to ensure sufficient oxygen reaches your muscles. Dynamic stretching helps the nerves to send the correct signals to your muscles before your workout begins, training your nerves and muscles to work more effectively together.

To summarise, static stretching has its place to help improve force production and performance. It should be avoided prior to exercise and is something that should be utilised at least 30 minutes before a game, after a game or on a different day. So next time you warm up consider using dynamics stretching instead to help reduce the risk of injury.

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