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New Insights on Stretching?

To stretch or not to stretch? Conflicting answers to this question seem to emerge on a regular basis. A new study review adds to the conversation.

The purpose of the review, executed by researchers from Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, was to comprehend the influence of stretching protocols on performance, range of motion and injury. The researchers sifted through hundreds of studies in which static stretching (SS), dynamic stretching (DS) or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) was used as part of a warm-up.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • SS and PNF protocols resulted in small to moderate performance changes. In most cases, measurements were taken within 3–5 minutes. Other studies that took measurements 10 minutes after stretching found only negligible changes in performance.
  • Performance deficits increased when SS lasted 60 seconds or longer. Some studies showed significant performance improvements when DS lasted more than 2 minutes or was completed at faster frequencies.
  • DS was associated with small to moderate performance changes when performed within minutes of exercise.
  • There was no clear association between SS and PNF and all-cause or overuse injury. No data was found on DS and injury.
  • All protocols resulted in range-of-motion improvements that lasted up to 30 minutes.

So, what is the best stretching practice? Considering the small-to-moderate changes immediately after stretching and the study limitations, stretching within a warm-up that includes additional poststretching dynamic activity is recommended for reducing muscle injuries and increasing joint ROM with inconsequential effects on subsequent athletic performance, the authors asserted.

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