I will be the first one to admit that this is something I’ve been fighting against for years. We all know that it was common practice among lifters and athletes through the 70s and the 80s to static stretch before a training session or playing a sport.
And that was accepted as a typical injury prevention strategy before an activity. That concept has been challenged a lot in the last decade and a half or so. Many researches came out suggesting that static stretching may negatively impact force production output (read: strength and power). The idea that static stretching by itself as a warm up procedure was a good injury prevention strategy has also been challenged a lot. The result of this being that strength coaches and fitness professionals alike who stay current with the literature have abandoned the static stretching concept as a warm up procedure almost completely. I, myself, have been supporting this theory that static stretching as a warm up is not appropriate.
But in the last couple of years, different strength coaches, like Mike Boyle have been trying to re-introduce the concept of static stretching as being part of a warm up (as opposed to being a whole warm up in itself). Knowing what we know now about static stretching it seemed kind of counter-intuitive to me to do that.
After resisting to the concept, I finally gave it a shot. Now I embrace it.
There’s a couple of things to take into account though, when using static stretching before training or sport:
- Even if there might be some benefits to doing static stretching before training, it cannot be used by itself as a complete warm up. Soft-tissue work, mobility, dynamic stretching and movement preparations are all important parts of a warm up, as well.
- You don’t want to stretch for too long. It’s called a warm up, not a cool down, so try to avoid spending over 10-15 minutes static stretching where your body might fall in sleep mode.
- Try to avoid static stretching the areas/muscles you’re going to involve in your training activity, because of the possible force production loss linked to static stretching. Mobility and dynamic stretching drills might be better suited for these areas.
The whole reason to re-incorporate static stretching in the warm up, in my opinion, is because we spend so much time sitting in a day that there are many muscles and joint that suffer from that. Therefore it’s important to give them length back before a training session; the last thing we want is to feel stiff and restricted from sitting all day before an activity.
Personally, I have been feeling so much better since re-incorporating some static stretches in my warm-up, and I definitely don’t feel as stiff when I train. Here’s how you might want to incorporate static stretching in your pre-workout routine:
- Soft-tissue work (foam rolling, stick, lacrosse ball, etc)
- Static stretching circuit (4-5 stretches that don’t target muscles involved in your training for that day)
- Dynamic stretching/mobility (6-8 movements that will target joints involved in your training for that day)
- Movement preparation (If you do any kind of sprint/plyo/power exercises you’ll want to do movement prep)
After fighting against the concept of static stretching as part of a warm up for so long, I now embrace it. You should definitely give it a shot if you’ve been in the same boat as I was for the last couple of years.