Static vs. dynamic stretching

Jacob Strøm

Jacob Strøm

Performance specialist. Cand.scient. Sports Science. 25+ certificates from EXOS, Barca Innovation Hub etc.

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Static stretching has long been a regular part of warm-up routines and is also used extensively after training/competition, but is it really the best option or is dynamic stretching the better one?
Static vs dynamic stretching

The goal of a warm-up is to increase body temperature by 1-2 degrees (Young & Behm 2002; Young 2007), usually through light aerobic work and stretching. The increase in body and muscle temperature has been shown to improve nerve and muscle function and thus lead to better performance (Young and Behm 2002; Bishop 2003).

What happens when you do static stretching?

Static stretching has been shown to improve range of motion (provide more flexibility) (Bandy et al. 1997; Power et al. 2004). In addition to increasing range of motion, previous studies showed a reduction (Safran et al. 1989) or prevention (Smith 1994) of injury, a reduction in subsequent muscle soreness (High et al. 1989) and improved performance (Young and Behm 2002; Young 2007).

However, several studies have concluded that stretching has no effect on the incidence of injuries Gleim and McHugh 1997; Herbert and Gabriel 2002; Small et al. 2008). 

Similarly, studies have shown the most flexible were more likely to sustain an injury compared to those with moderate flexibility (Bauman et al. 1982; Cowan et al. 1988). 

At the same time, a number of studies have shown that static stretching can decrease subsequent performance (Behm et al. 2001, 2004, 2006; Behm and Kibele 2007; Fowles et al. 2000; Kokkonen et al. 1998; Nelson et al. 2001a, b; Power et al. 2004). 

Looking at the scientific literature on static stretching, there are some studies that show an improvement in performance. Here you have to be aware that a sport like ballet for example requires more flexibility than football. Some studies show no change, while a large number show negative results in performance consisting of sprints, turns, jumps, etc. (Behm and Chaouachi 2011).

Based on this, it is logical not to do static stretching before training or competition in sports with high, speed and twists. This applies not only to long static stretches of high intensity, but static stretching in general Behm, David & Chaouachi, Anis. (2011). 

What happens when you do dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching containing controlled movements through an active movement pathway for a given joint (Fletcher 2010) shows either: an improvement in power, sprint, jumping height, performance or no negative effect (Manoel et al. 2008; Yamaguchi et al. 2008; Fletcher and Anness 2007; Little and Williams 2006; Holt and Lambourne 2008; Hough et al. 2009; Jaggers et al. 2008; Pearce et al. 2009; Christensen and Nordstrom 2008; Samuel et al. 2008; Torres et al. 2008; Unick et al. 2005).

The mechanisms behind dynamic stretching that provide performance improvement are increased body and muscle temperature (Fletcher and Jones 2004), post-activation potentiation (PAP) in the working muscle (Hough et al. 2009; Torres et al. 2008), stimulation of the nervous system, and/or a decrease in activation of antagonist muscles (Jaggers et al. 2008; Yamaguchi and Ishii 2005).

Static or dynamic stretching for better performance?

When you do static stretching, you don't move - dynamic stretching does. This means that you can practice movements that are relevant to the sport, which in itself can improve performance.

The literature shows that dynamic stretching is preferable to static stretching as part of the warm-up for physical activity, as the warm-up is then similar to the performance that will follow, as body temperature is also increased here (Torres et al. 2008).

Examples of dynamic stretching before strength, training or fighting.

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  1. Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M (1997) The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther 77:1090-1096
  2. Behm DG (2004) Force maintenance with submaximal fatiguing contractions. Can J Appl Physiol 29:274-290
  3. Behm DG, Kibele A (2007) Effects of differing intensities of static stretching on jump performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 101:587-594
  4. Behm DG, Button DC, Butt JC (2001) Factors affecting force loss with prolonged stretching. Can J Appl Physiol 26:261-272 
  5. Behm DG, Bambury A, Cahill F, Power K (2004) Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:1397-1402 
  6. Behm DG, Bradbury EE, Haynes AT, Hodder JN, Leonard AM,Paddock NR (2006) Flexibility is not related to stretch-induced deficits in force or power. J Sports Sci Med 5:33-42
  7. Behm, David & Chaouachi, Anis. (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European journal of applied physiology. 111. 2633-51. 10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2. 
  8. Bishop D (2003) Warm up I: potential mechanisms and the effects of passive warm up on exercise performance. Sports Med 33:439-454
  9. Fowles JR, Sale DG, MacDougall JD (2000) Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantar flexors. J Appl Physiol 89:1179-1188

Remaining sources:

  1. Kokkonen J, Nelson AG, Cornwell A (1998) Acute muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performance. Res Quart Exercise Sport 69:411-415
  2. Nelson A, Allen J, Cornwell A, Kokkonen J (2001a) Inhibition of maximal voluntary isometric torque production by acute stretch- ing is joint-angle specific. Res Q Exerc Sport 72:68-70
  3. Nelson AG, Guillory IK, Cornewell A, Kokkonen J (2001b) Inhibition of maximal voluntary isokinetic torque production following stretching is velocity-specific. J Strength Cond Res 15:241-246
  4. Power K, Behm D, Cahill F, Carroll M, Young W (2004) An acute bout of static stretching: effects on force and jumping performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:1389-1396
  5. Safran M, Seaber A, Garrett W (1989) Warm-up and muscular injury prevention: an update. Sports Med 8:239-249
  6. Smith C (1994) The warm-up procedure: to stretch or not to stretch: a brief review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 19:12-17
  7. Young W, Behm D (2002) Should static stretching be used during a warm-up for strength and power activities? Strength Cond J 24:33-37
  8. Young WB (2007) The use of static stretching in warm-up for training and competition. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2:212-216

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