The When? Why? And How? Of Static Stretches and Breaking Down The Fear of Implementing Them Pre-Training.
There is an ongoing debate in the world of strength training regarding static stretching and when and how it should be implemented into programming. I am going to keep this short and sweet, but at the same time I would like to dispel any fear athletes and gym goers have about static stretching in their warm-ups. Here are two common warnings about the negative “side-effects,” of static stretches and their adverse impact on performance:
Here is the thing though, these two notions are absolutely true and I do not disagree with them whatsoever! Now I know you may be reading this and you are probably thinking to yourself “Why on Earth is this guy agreeing with these things when he already stated the purpose of the article is to rid me of fear of static stretching?” You know what, you are right? I agree with these facts, but I strongly disagree with the fact that you cannot static stretch before you train, and here is the reason why! Basically, what these trainers are failing to shed light on is the fact that static stretching is only advised against pre-training if it is not appropriately utilized! Let me explain.
Why They Are Ok
Please go back and check out my recent article on how to conduct a proper warm-up (http://www.challengerstrength.com/blog/how-to-properly-warm-up-athletes-meatheads-and-everyone-in-between). If you notice, I have a strategic warm-up scheme (in order of when each should be executed I might add), and at the top of the list is foam rolling (also known as SMR or self-myofascial release) and static stretching. Now, why would I do this if I were going to sit here and claim to be an educated and knowledgeable trainer and coach? If everyone out there claims they are bad for you then they must be. Wrong! As long as you follow specific guidelines following static stretching you will be perfectly fine, and actually benefit from the static stretching. Simply put, if static stretches are followed up with activation exercises, movement pattern rehearsal and central nervous system activation (I have also written another article on my three favorite CNS activating exercises) (http://www.challengerstrength.com/blog/three-favorite-nervous-system-activating-exercises), they are fine! You will not have to worry about lowering the responsiveness of your central nervous system and relaxing your muscles if you work towards igniting them anyway! Also, you can work out any problem areas you may have, improve your short-term range of motion and promote much more effective movement with your compound lifts
When They Are Ok
Obviously I just spend a paragraph explaining that they are ok before a training session, but I will also clarify that they are equally (or even more important) post-training. Static stretching post training is a great way to down regulate the nervous system. Basically, we can use SMR, stretching and breathing drills in order to cue our body into a mode of recovery. Not only that, but longer holds in the 20-30 second range have shown to promote long-term improvements in ranges of motion.
How To Static Stretch
As a general rule of thumb, I keep pre-training static stretching as limited to 4-5 “problem areas,” an athlete or client may have. If they are tight in the hips or lower body, they will have 4-5 go-to stretches they will utilize before we begin our actual warm-up. In terms of post-training stretching, I am a firm believer that a full body (1-2 different stretches per area) routine can have a multitude of benefits for whatever your goals may be.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.