Warming up before your sporting or training event is common knowledge, right? Do some stretching, maybe some foam rolling, then a gentle run and you’re ready to get amongst it!
Or are you?
Static stretching (ie holding a stretch for say 20-30seconds) has often been the go to for warming up. Most people who have played any kind of sport have done hamstring stretches, or the ol’ grab your foot behind you quad stretch.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that static stretching improves sporting performance. In fact, the opposite is (somewhat) true – it makes the stretched muscle weaker for about 15 minutes.
Enter dynamic stretching! Leg swings, high knees, arm swings… the latest in warmup technology! The idea behind dynamic stretching is that it stretches the muscle actively, by doing a movement rather than holding a position. There is also little evidence that dynamic stretching does anything to improve sporting performance.
So what’s a team to do? Well, ideally, sport specific warmups work best. Simple drills that mimic basic sporting tasks and prime relevant musculature for use. A great example is the FIFA 11+ warmup series for soccer players – shown to reduce ankle and groin injuries in professional soccer players by up to 80%.
You can find the FIFA 11+ warmup series videos here.
With all that being said, another study has shown that athletes doing whatever they perceived to be significant for warmups (even if there was zero actual evidence that it helped), helped them perform better. So the ‘placebo’ effect is still out in force!
Ultimately, if you enjoy stretching or feel it helps you prior to sport/exercise – go for it! Just don’t over do it, and maybe stack it at the front end of your warm up so that by the time you get to the actual activity, any potential muscle weakening has worn off.