You know how research sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes) contradicts itself? This is one of those times. For decades we believed static stretching was crucial to improving flexibility, athleticism, and injury prevention. But once the 90s came to an end, fitness enthusiasts and professionals were singing a very different tune.
In the last 15 years, we’ve been told static stretching can impair exercise performance and does nothing to reduce the risk of injury, so we’ve hailed dynamic stretching the end-all, be-all warmup routine. But now, a systematic review of hundreds of studies, published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, claims we’ve got it all wrong.
Endorsed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, this comprehensive review offers new recommendations to professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.
“The recommendation in the CSEP Position Stand is that all components of a warmup be included with appropriate duration of stretching,” CSEP Chair Phil Chilibeck, Ph.D., said in a press release. “The inclusion of static, or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), stretching is recommended and has the potential to positively influence the standard warmup routines of a large number of athletes.”
The researchers say static and dynamic stretching, incorporated into a full warmup routine that includes an initial aerobic component, aren’t likely to detract from exercise performance, and may reduce muscle strain injury risk instead.
David Behm, lead study author adds: “Many studies over the last 15 years did not include a full warm-up, something that most athletes do regularly. Many studies also tested stretches that were held much longer than what is typically done.”