By: ATH Athletic Performance Director Frank Bourgeois, PhD
For several decades there has been controversy concerning the superiority, or lack thereof, regarding static stretching and dynamic stretching. This topic has historically spurred division among coaches and scientists alike, particularly when these stretches are executed before training. Whilst each stretching mode has its benefits, it is important to understand and differentiate the mode-specific advantages of static and dynamic stretching to maximize subsequent results.
Due to static and dynamic stretching each offering specific benefits, it is recommended practitioners consider utilizing both to maximize short- and long-term results [4,7]. Three factors to ruminate are mode order, static stretch duration and subsequent activity [8,11]. Briefly, after raising body temperature, execute static stretching followed by dynamic stretching, then rapid movement, such as jumping actions. To attenuate potential negative effects associated with static stretching, simply limit volume and intensity by prescribing stretch durations of 6 to 12 seconds across major joints – that is, knees, hips and shoulders.
Concerning the warm up, static stretching is traditionally executed immediately after a brief aerobic-like activity, such as a stationary bike or a light jog. Generally, static stretching involves lengthening muscle groups to the limit of range of motion (ROM), with stretching to a ROM below discomfort being recommended . The purpose of doing so is to encourage transient increases in ROM about joints and to increase stretch tolerance, with concurrent decreases in muscle mechanical stiffness (i.e. an increase in compliance; which is thought to be beneficial in certain activities) . Interestingly, because of the historical popularity of static stretching to alleviate muscle ‘tightness’ before training, there can be an enormous positive psychological effect [6,11]. Though once considered a prophylactic, and thus beneficial to performance, a considerable body of data demonstrates static stretching has been associated with stretch-induced impairments of isometric force , 1-repetition maximum lifts , and jump  and sprint performance , while lacking efficacy in injury risk reduction . Nonetheless, there is data that demonstrates static stretching has non-significant and beneficial effects on performance [2,4,7], particularly when followed by rapid movement . The primary factors thought to bring about the null or positive effect following static stretching is stretch duration and subsequent muscle action.
Due to a sizable amount of data suggesting static stretching is deleterious to performance, there has been a massive push to eliminate it from the warm up and replace it with dynamic stretching. Similar to static stretching, dynamic stretching is traditionally executed immediately after activity that raises body temperature. Readily identifiable benefits of dynamic stretching are positive alteration to synovial fluid, increased nerve conductivity, enhanced blood chemistry (e.g. increased oxygen dissociation and enzyme activity), and increased muscle compliance and ROM [2,3,5,7]. Another beneficial aspect of dynamic stretching is the utilization of multi joint movements to specifically prepare for subsequent motor patterns to be executed in the training session. Thus, the primary factor thought to bring about the positive effect following dynamic stretching is movement specificity.
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