Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions referring to latest studies and research findings, and one question that I receive most queries about concerns role that stretching plays as part of warm up.
Currently, there seems to be a lot of confusion about how and when stretching should be used as part of warm up, and some people are under impression that stretching should be avoided altogether.
This is a very important issue and needs to be clarified immediately. The rest of this article is dedicated to dispelling some common myths and misconceptions about stretching and its’ role as part of warm up.
What has Science got to say?
Most of studies I've reviewed attempt to determine effects of stretching on injury prevention. This is a mistake in itself and shows a lack of understanding as to how stretching is used as part of an injury prevention program and warm up.
Stretching and its effect on physical performance and injury prevention is something that just can't be measured scientifically. Sure you can measure effect of stretching on flexibility with simple tests like “Sit and Reach” test, but then to determine how that affects athletic performance or injury susceptibility is near impossible.
One of more recent studies on stretching supports this view by concluding;
"Due to paucity, heterogeneity and poor quality of available studies no definitive conclusions can be drawn as to value of stretching for reducing risk of exercise-related injury." (The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of literature, 2003, Weldon)
To put above quote in layman’s terms; there hasn’t been enough studies done and studies that have been done are not specific or consistent enough. For most comprehensive assessment and conclusion of research done on affects of stretching I suggest you have a read through following article, “The Truth about Stretching.” http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/resources/articles/stretching-truth.htm
The Greatest Misconception
Confusion about what stretching accomplishes, as part of warm up, is causing many to abandon stretching altogether. The key to understanding role stretching plays can be found in previous sentence. But, you have to read it carefully.
Stretching, as part of warm up!
Here’s key: Stretching is a critical part of warm up, but stretching is NOT warm up.
Don’t make mistake of thinking that doing a few stretches constitutes a warm up. An effective warm up has a number of very important key elements, which work together to minimize likelihood of sports injury and prepare individual for physical activity.
Identifying components of an effective and safe warm up, and executing them in correct order is critical. Remember, stretching is only one part of an effective warm up and its’ place in warm up routine is specific and dependant on other components. The four key elements that should be included to ensure an effective and complete warm up are: