Stretching a muscle at rest before running is widely used with the idea to lengthen a muscle to a point of discomfort for a period of time (usually 30 seconds to 2 minutes). It is also called isometric stretching or static stretching and it is advocated by many coaches and fitness experts, however, a recent review has proven it detrimental to performance
Static stretching is believed to promote better performance and reduce the risk of injury, there is increasing evidence that stretching might reduce performance (1), especially performance in maximal and explosive muscular efforts, some exercise professionals are now starting to recommend avoidance of Static stretching. Given the widespread use of stretching across all kinds of exercises it is important to determine whether it increases or hurts performance.
The last meta-analysis(2), a review of multiple studies, pools together evidence from 104 studies and the results are quite clear:
- Pre-exercise Static Stretching is detrimental on maximal muscle strength and explosive muscular performance
- The longer the stretch, the greater the negative effects
- These effects are independent of age, gender and training status
Conclusions and recommendations
The evidence is clear, as a general rule, stretching before exercise should be avoided. There is some evidence that warming up might be beneficial in avoiding injury and increasing muscular performance, but that is subject for another post.
- Behm DG, Chaouachi A. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 2011: 111: 2633-2651
- Simic L, Sarabon N, Markovic G. Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2013: 131-148