To stretch or not stretch, this is the question

Miguel Ángel Martínez

23 April, 2014

Although there is an extended opinion that practicing stretching exercises is always beneficial, in recent years this mystical belief has been reviewed and new, more rational a priori use bases have been established.

What we have always thought of stretching
Traditionally, an almost miraculous role has been attributed to the realization of stretching in the prevention of injuries, performance, recovery ... even a protective factor was attributed to the appearance of the "crackdowns".
Fortunately, lately, numerous articles have been published that show that stretching has utilities, but it can also have negative effects.
Exercise stretching exercises
Contrary to what most practitioners and even coaches may think, doing stretching exercises before practicing a sporting activity can be counterproductive. As almost always in the sports context, everything is relative. In this case, it depends on the type of stretching exercises that are done. Those with a static character (maintaining a position) can cause problems in the ability to generate strength, as shown by the results of articles from Endlich (2009), Gurjao (2009), LaRoche, Lussier & Roy (2008), Winchester and Nelson Kokkonen (2009). Especially if they are very intense or are kept in a prolonged manner.
This could be caused by the increase in muscle plasticity (we slightly deform the muscle). At moments immediately prior to exercise, it could make it difficult to create cross-bridges between actin and myosin, proteins responsible for the contraction, and hence impede muscular activity.
However, dynamic exercises, popularly known as "bounced", could be beneficial, as shown by the work of Bacurau (2009), Curri (2009), Herman (2008), Smith (2008) and Manoel (2008 ). In all these studies a positive relationship is detected when doing strong activities or when in sport practiced explosive actions can occur, as in team sports.
This claim is based on the fact that sports activity is based on the repetition of dynamic actions, which cause tension in both elastic elements (such as tendons) and contractile (muscle).
And what happens in the case of resistance exercises such as race or cycling?
For disciplines known as sports of provision, in which muscular activities of intense character (such as race, cycling or swimming) do not appear, stretching exercises can cause negative effects on the economy of gesture (this wants Let's say we'll get bored before). This effect will occur if we perform static stretching exercises during warming, as proposed by Wilson (2010), Wolfe (2011), Trehearn and Buresh (2009) results.
The explanation that some authors give us to this fact is that rigid tendinous structures could have a better mechanical behavior. With stretching, they would increase complacency (capacity to extend) and reduce the capacity to store energy.
And in relation to the injuries?
The relationship with the injuries is not entirely clear. It seems that the most widespread opinion is that static stretching may not have any effect. It could favor its appearance in some cases or diminish it in others. The authors who have focused their studies on this topic have been Witvrouw (2007), Woods, Bishop and Jones (2007), McHugh and Cosgrave (2010).
So, does it mean that stretching is bad?
Yes and no Stretching exercises can be beneficial as long as the appropriate method is applied at the time and always have the sport we are going to practice or practice.
In this way, thanks to the readings of the studies done so far, we can reach the following conclusions:
During warming, it is convenient to do dynamic stretching exercises (ballistic, or "bouncing"), since it seems that they improve the performance later, especially in disciplines where the force plays a leading role or if there is a possibility of explosive actions.
If static stretches are made during heating, it is not recommended that they be intense or that the duration exceeds thirty seconds.
It is recommended to carry out flexibility sessions to maintain or improve the range of movement of the different joints, which can prevent the onset of injury. These sessions should not be performed immediately before or immediately after a training session, as they would not produce the desired effects.
Bibliography
Bacurau, RFP, Monteiro, G. de A., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Cabral, LF and Aoki, MS «Acute Effect of a Ballistic and a Static Stretching Exercise Bout on Flexibility and Maximal Strength» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, n. 1 (2009).
Curry, BS, Chengkalath, D., Crouch, GJ, Romance, M. and Manns, PJ «Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching, Static Stretching, and Light Aerobic Activity on Muscular Performance in Women» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, n. 6 (2009).
Endlich, PW, Farina, GR, Dambroz, C., Silva Goncalves, WL, Moyses, MR, Mill, JG and Abreu, GR «Acute Effects of Static Stretching in Dynamic Force Performance in Young Men», Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, vol. 15, n. 3 (2009).
Gurjao, ALD, Goncalves, R., de Moura, RF and Gobbi, S. «Acute Effect of Static Stretching on Rate of Force Development and Maximal Voluntary Contraction in Older Women» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, n. 7 (2009).
Herman, SL and Smith, DT «Four-Week Dynamic Stretching Warm-Up Intervention Elicits Longer-Term Performance Benefits» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 22, n. 4 (2008).
LaRoche, DP, Lussier, MV and Roy, SJ «Chronic Stretching and Voluntary Muscle Force», Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 22, n. 2 (2008).
Manoel, ME, Harris-Love, MO, Danoff, JV and Miller, TA «Acute Effects of Static, Dynamic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching on Muscle Power in Women» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 22, n. 5 (2008).
McHugh, MP and Cosgrave, CH «To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance» Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, vol. 20, n. 2 (2010).
Trehearn, TL i Buresh, RJ «Sit-And-Reach Flexibility and Running Economy of Men and Women Collegiate Distance Runners» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, n. 1 (2009).
Wilson, JM, Hornbuckle, LM, Kim, J., Ugrinowitsch, C., Lee, S., Zourdos, MC, Sommer, B. and Panton, LB «Effects of Static Stretching on Energy Cost and Running Endurance Performance» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 24, n. 9 (2010).
Winchester, JB, Nelson, AG and Kokkonen, J. «A Single 30-s Stretch Is Sufficient to Inhibit Maximal Voluntary Strength», Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, vol. 80, n. 2 (2009).
Witvrouw, E., Mahieu, N., Roosen, P. and McNair, P. «The role of stretching in tendon injuries» British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 41, n. 4 (2007).
Wolfe, AE, Brown, LE, Coburn, JW, Kersey, RD and Bottaro, M. «Time Course of the Effects of Static Stretching on Cycling Economy» Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 25, n. 11 (2011).
Woods, K., Bishop, P. and Jones, E. «Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscle injury», Sports Medicine, vol. 37, n. 12 (2007).

the author

Miguel Ángel Martínez

Master in Physiology. Bachelor's Degree in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences. Superior Technician in Animation of Physical-Sports Activities

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