Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

Static Vs. Dynamic Stretching, Which is Better?

By Seth Phillips, MPT at CPR

Seth Philips, MPTI was recently asked by a local high school football coach if he should have his athletes perform static or dynamic stretching as part of their warm-up routine.  Before we answer this question, we need to first differentiate between dynamic and static stretching.  Static stretching involves taking a muscle to its end range and maintaining that position statically for a sustained time period (typically 30 seconds) to increase soft tissue extensibility/muscular flexibility and decrease the risk of injury.  In contrast, dynamic stretching involves performing functional movement patterns that simulate multi-joint movements typically performed during sport activity. These movements usually involve careful/progressive increases in range of motion and speed of movement. With the ultimate objective to increase flexibility for injury prevention and improve athletic performance.  In addition, dynamic stretching also provides a metabolic warm-up.  Proper warm-up is essential for an athlete to perform at their optimal level.  Dynamic stretching is not to be confused with ballistic stretching.  Ballistic stretching involves taking a muscle beyond its physiological range by utilizing "bouncing or jerking" motions.  Ballistic stretching is typically not recommended as a warm-up for athletic participation as it can lead to injury.  
Research has shown that dynamic stretching is more effective at preventing injury than static stretching.  In addition, static stretching has been found to decrease muscle strength by up to 9% for upwards of 60 minutes after the stretch is performed. In comparison, dynamic stretching has been found to improve muscular strength/power, balance, agility, and reaction time as compared to static stretching.    

In summary,research suggests that dynamic stretching is more beneficial as a warm up prior to sport participation as compared to static stretching and will help decrease the risk for injury while improving dynamic flexibility, strength, power, reaction time, balance, and agility which should correlate to improved athletic performance and safety.    
So what should be including in a typical athletic warm-up?  Athletes should first perform an aerobic based warm-up such as jogging for 5-10 minutes.  Then they shoulder perform dynamic stretching with activities that utilize the major muscle groups and joints that will be utilized during the athletic event.  The stretches should be performed in a controlled manner with gradual increases in ROM and speed of movement.  Examples of dynamic stretches include:  butt kickers, walking lunges, lateral lunges, arm circles, trunk rotations, leg kicks, high knees, etc.  
One thing to note is that we should not total abandon static stretching as it definitely has its place.  Static stretching is very important in improving and maintaining muscular flexibility and is most beneficial when performed after sport participation as part of a general cool down routine.  Static stretching can also be performed separately as part of a regular exercise program to help improve general muscular flexibility, postural alignment, and body mechanics. 

Amiri-Khorasani, M., Abu Osman, N.A., & Yusof, A. (2011). Acute Effect of Static and Dynamic Stretching on Hip Dynamic Range of Motion During Instep Kicking in Professional Soccer Players.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, February 24, 2011.

Kistler, B.M., Walsh, M.S., Horn, T.S., & Cox, R.H. (2010). The Acute Effects of Static Stretching on the Sprint Performance of Collegiate Men in the 60- and 100-m Dash After a Dynamic Warm-Up. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24 (9), 2280-2284.

Gelen, E. (2010). Acute Effects of Different Warm-Up Methods on Sprint, Slalom Dribbling, and Penalty Kick Performance in Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24 (4), 952-954.

McMillian, D. J., Moore, J.H., Hatler, B.S., & Taylor, D.C. (2006). Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: The effect on power and agility performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20 (3), 492-499.

Nelson, R.T., (2006). A comparison of the immediate effects of eccentric training vs. static stretch on hamstring flexibility in high school and college athletes. North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 1 (2), 56-61.

Fowles, J.R., Sale, D.G., & MacDougall, J.D. (2000). Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Journal of Applied Physiology, 89 (3), 1179-1188