Over the past 20 years, static muscle stretching has gotten a bad rap. Once considered an essential part of any sport or exercise warm-up, static stretching has now been removed from the picture almost entirely.
This move followed extensive research showing that static stretching — where we stretch and then hold the muscle at an extended length for seconds or minutes — can reduce muscle strength (reflected in things like lifting weights), power (for example, jump height), running speed, balance and other capacities for a short time after the stretchingWork.
To put the research into context, the average performance decrease (decrease in strength, power, speed) after static stretching across all studies is about three to five per cent. It may not sound like much, but if you consider that sprinter Usain Bolt beat Justin Gatlin by 0.8 per cent and Andre de Grasse by one per cent at the 2016 Olympics, then it’s safe to say that a three to five per cent deficit could be life-changing. So, at first glance it may appear reasonable for static stretching to be removed from the picture.
However, it seems that many of these studies were not designed to answer the specific question of whether stretching affects performance when used in a warm-up or, at least, we may have made conclusions contrary to the actual evidence.