Research on stretching before a workout has been confusing in recent years, with conflicting evidence on the best way to do it.
However, new research published this week has found that the best way to stretch to get the most out of your workout is a complete warm-up that includes static stretching, dynamic stretching, and even an aerobic component.
Stretching whilst the body is at rest, referred to as static stretching, was, from the 1960s to the late 1990s believed to be the most effective way to prepare the muscles to reduce injury, increase flexibility, and increase overall performance.
However contrary advice over the last 15 years — that static stretching could actually impair performance and that dynamic stretching (performing movements through large ranges of motion) was in fact the best way to warm up — led many athletes and sports enthusiasts to make a switch, and stop static stretching altogether.
The new research, which reviewed hundreds of existing studies on stretching, has now concluded that static stretching does not result in injury or negatively impact performance, and the ideal warm-up is a combination of both static and dynamic stretching, with an aerobic element.
The team also concluded that static stretching may in fact reduce risk of injury, and highlighted that there is actually a lack of data on dynamic stretching and its effect on risk of injury.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. David Behm from Memorial University of Newfoundland and lead author of the study said, "It is important for fitness professionals and enthusiasts, coaches, rehabilitation professionals and other scientists to critically assess the findings of fitness studies. Many studies over the last 15 years did not include a full warm-up, something that most athletes do regularly."
The findings have also been endorsed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), who commented, "The recommendation in the CSEP Position Stand is that all components of a warm-up be included with appropriate duration of stretching.
The inclusion of static stretching is recommended and has the potential to positively influence the standard warmup routines of a large number of athletes."
The research was published in the journal "Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism."