Myths and realities of sports massage

Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching

Static stretching vs. dynamic stretching

Types of stretching

There are three main types of self-stretching:  

  • Static (no movement) 
  • Dynamic (movement) 
  • Ballistic (bouncing) 

They are all active modes of stretching, including static stretching. Even if noticeable movement is not present, the muscle is still active. More than likely, the athletic trainer is applying resistance to the muscle in the stretched position.  

In physics, a static system is defined as a system that does not change. In exercise and muscle mechanics, the use of the terms static and dynamic are used to describe whether an object is still (static) or on the move (dynamic).   

Think of a static stretch system as a system that is active but does not change positions. 

When to use static stretching  

Because static stretching causes noticeable changes in muscle elasticity, it affects muscle performance. Therefore, this type of stretching is normally recommended after exercise. Static stretching impacts muscle elasticity and can directly influence muscle strength and power output. Athletic trainers should carefully consider when static stretching is used.   

In terms of flexibility programming, muscles are most pliable when they are warm. Flexibility training, especially static stretching, should be done after exercise or, at a minimum, after a light to moderate intensity warmup.   

Time of day matters  

On average, body temperature peaks at 4 to 6 p.m. This means that muscles are their most pliable around that time. The recommended best time of day to stretch to improve overall muscle elasticity and joint range of motion is between 4 and 6 pm daily.  

Before training and competition  

Debate over the value of stretching prior to competition versus the damage to performance it might cause is ongoing. Many researchers believe that static stretching has an adverse effect on muscle performance  

However, the impact on performance depends upon which performance variable is being measured. Is it a test of muscle endurance, strength, and/or power? The specifics of the stretch, like the duration and the time between stretching and the athlete’s performance, also matter.   

Athletic trainers have debated the mechanisms associated with decreased performance outcomes for over 25 years. These include both neural (decreased voluntary activation and motoneuron excitability) and morphological (force-length and elasticity changes in the muscle itself) explanations.   

In a recent study on the effects of static stretching on performance, the results showed that it reduced muscle endurance performance. However, muscle rate of force production and range of motion were improved.   

However, some athletes still prefer static stretching prior to training and competition for performance related motivation or strictly personal enjoyment reasons. To mitigate the impact of static stretching on performance, historical data tells us that the duration of the held static stretch should not exceed 30 seconds.   

If a static stretch is used before competition or training, provide at least five minutes of rest between stretching and training or competition. The objective is to allow muscles to recover contractility properties lost during static stretching before an exercise session or competitive event.  

Sample program  

The table below shows a sample flexibility program for static stretching to maintain desired muscle performance outcomes. 

Type of Stretching  Frequency  Duration of Stretch Before Training  Rest Between Stretching and Training  Duration of Stretch After Training 
Static  Monday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Tuesday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Wednesday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Thursday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Friday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Saturday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 
Static  Sunday  Less than 30 seconds  5 minutes  30 seconds or more 

 Timing and duration recommendations  

Static stretching is a best-method approach to increase overall flexibility of the musculoskeletal system. Where muscle performance is a factor, keep these programming best practices in mind:  

  • Before training, keep static stretches to less than 30 seconds each.  
  • If static stretching is used before training or events, provide at least five minutes of dynamic activity between stretching and performance.  
  • Do static stretches in which each stretch is held for more than 30 seconds after a sport event or training.  
  • Hold stretches up to 60 seconds to improve functional range of motion.  

References  

  • Ashmore, Amy. 2020. Timing Resistance Training: Programming the Muscle Clock for Optimal Performance, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL.  
  • Behm DG, Kay AD, Trajano GS, Blazevich AJ. Mechanisms underlying performance impairments following prolonged static stretching without a comprehensive warm-up. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2021 Jan;121(1):67-94. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04538-8. Epub 2020 Nov 11. PMID: 33175242. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33175242/   
  • Ikeda N, Ryushi T. Effects of 6-Week Static Stretching of Knee Extensors on Flexibility, Muscle Strength, Jump Performance, and Muscle Endurance. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Mar 1;35(3):715-723. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002819. PMID: 30161088. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30161088/