Stretching Decreases Performance, Expert Says
Stretching. We see runners stretching in the park and professional athletes do it on the sidelines. We see it on exercise videos and instructional tapes on TV. Yet, according to performance expert James Zois from Victoria University’s School of Sport and Exercise Science, when it comes to stretching we have it all wrong and as a result suffer up to an 11 percent loss in performance.
In a recent news release from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, performance expert James Zois who works with the Collingwood Football Club to improve warm-up techniques and is currently Tennis Victoria’s strength and conditioning performance manager is telling athletes that their warm-up stretching exercises are decreasing their performance rather than enhancing their performance.
Mr. Zois believes that the common static type of stretching we’ve all learned since our years in school gym P.E. classes are not applicable when it comes to the kind of stretching that should be done just prior to hitting the field or the track.
“It’s an epidemic. I see it at almost every AFL club, tennis match or international soccer event where athletes are stretching on the sidelines just prior to playing,” he said. “People just aren’t getting the message,” says Mr. Zois.
Mr. Zois says that static stretching such as calf, quad and hip flex stretches just before competing are in fact causing a decrease in performance by as much as 11 percent.
Based on research that he has done correlating stretching styles with performance, he has discovered that not doing any stretching at all can be more beneficial from a performance perspective than stretching the wrong way through non-aerobic warm-up stretching exercises.
“It’s called a warm-up because its aim is to increase the metabolic processes, heart rate, muscle temperature and oxygen delivery to working muscles,” he said. “If you do anything passive, like static stretching, you actually reverse those processes and so are actually doing the opposite of a warm up.”
What Mr., Zois recommends is that athletes forego the warm-up stretches for blood-pumping dynamic stretches. Examples of dynamic stretching include range of motion exercises involving the limbs such as high-knee raises, leg swings or change of direction tasks like wind sprints. Mr. Zois’s research findings indicate that dynamic stretching can increase an individual’s vertical jump by 3 percent; whereas a static stretch would cause a decrease by 8 percent.
However, Mr. Zois does not say that static stretching has no place in fitness. He believes that static stretching is necessary for athletes with chronic injuries or muscle stiffness that needs to be worked out slowly. But, when it comes to within an hour of an athletic performance he says that static stretching has no place on the field.
“Too many athletes still use the counterproductive technique of static stretching during the warm-up,” he says.