Static Stretching Before Lifting... I Do It

Quick, before the fitness police find this and delete my post give it a quick read. What I just committed is blasphemy in the fitness world. "Why?" Because I just admitted to doing one of the cardinal sins of performance. I admitted to doing static stretches before lifting.

Back in the golden days, when Arnold was jacked and the Cowboys won football games, static stretching before competing was a must. As muscles and mustaches faded away and neon colors appeared, sports scientists had learned that static stretching before lifting actually reduced performance. Static stretching was shown to not reduce injury, not to significantly improve range of motion, and not to improve performance. By statically stretching a muscle all you do is stretch the motor end plates out and fatigue them. However, when I say that I do static stretches I am not referring to my muscles, per-say. I am referring to my joints.

Before mobilitywod.com began charging a membership fee, which I completely understand, I would log on daily looking for new techniques to help improve my mobility. If your joint has a problem mechanically, then using techniques to break down the impairment are a must. This is where static stretching returns. Each joint is surrounded by tendons, ligaments, and muscles that help hold it in place. By stretching the particular joint capsule you will eliminate overstretching the muscle. Granted this takes plenty of practice, but you will be able to feel a difference between joint and muscle stretching. When you stretch a joint capsule you're not really stretching the joint, you might be fixing some scar tissue, but you're aligning it to where it belongs.

My main recommendation is to never stretch a joint for more than 15 seconds a rep, and never more than 90 seconds total. It's said that it takes roughly 120 seconds to change soft tissue, which will impair your abilities before a workout. By limiting each stretch on a joint to 15 seconds you will be able to assess mobility each time. The goal in doing joint mobility is not to improve overall mobility, but to momentarily improve force production at end range of motion.

I’ve theorized, based on personal and practical experience, that when we threw away static stretching pre-workout we threw away a possible tool that could improve performance. If we can eliminate stretching the muscle belly and focus on stretching and aligning the joint then we may improve performance. If you’re a Strength & Conditioning coach you’ve probably lit your computer on fire and reported me to the proper authorities already. So if you never see me write another post it’s probably because I’m sitting in S&C jail. Just let me give a brief explanation though. Dynamic stretching is good for warming up the muscle, but not for improving end range of motion. Static stretching, on the other hand, does. As a powerlifter, bodybuilder, crossfitter, weightlifter, or average joe-gymrat you probably want to squat a lot of weight to depth. However, if your mechanical failures prevent you from being strong at the bottom it would make sense to try and fix that, right?

I believe it is more important to be mechanically aligned in a deep position than to avoid the risk of static stretching a muscle. We all know what it’s like to squat and be unable to reach depth because our hips have gotten stuck.

 Imagine you have to lift a very heavy crate straight up. To do so you have several pulleys and a rope at your disposal, but you have to make a choice. You can either align the pulleys better, and thus reduce the overall feel of the weight, or you get a nice pair of leather gloves. It's smarter to align the pulleys and lift something that feels half as heavy than to have a better grip. 

To me, it makes perfect sense. What do you think? If I'm completely wrong let me know, because as far as I have seen there is no evidence against this topic.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.