Warm-up: To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

In my athletic career I have been exposed to many different methods of warming up, from exclusively static stretching to no stretching at all and just starting practice at a lower intensity (after all, a deer doesn’t stretch in the woods, or some similar logic).

I know that the overwhelming trend currently is the complete exclusion of any static stretching because of the research showing a negative effect on power.

Recently I’ve been doing the following warmup:

Jog/Skip- 400-600 yards
Static stretch- various stretches held for anywhere between 8-15 seconds
Drills 2x20yds- A-skip, B-skip, backward skip, backward run, carioca, lateral walk, crossover walk, lunge walk, power skip for height, power skip for distance
Dynamic Stretch x10 ea- leg swings front and lateral, scissors, iron cross, scorpions, mule kicks, leg whips
Hurdle mobility
Buildups- 2-3

For my recent workout with the Cowboys, the warmup was similar starting with hurdle mobility, skipping and hopping, a section of static stretching for the hips, quads and hamstrings and finally some walking dynamic stretches and drills.

In both instances I have found that the static stretching seemed to help and I felt little if any background muscle noise in my subsequent sprints.

On the other hand, I am not arrogant enough to presume that I have all the answers or that my program is flawless.

I’d be interested to hear some thoughts and experiences regarding the use of static stretching in the warmup prior to a power/speed workout.

dosent static stretching decrease power output only for 30 mins after the stretching??so static stretch at the start of the warm up…i never really feel the need to static stretch in a warm up…

Couple of thoughts

  1. Research is usually poorly designed… too much stretches (couple of times for 30sec or longer) and with great intensity, without ‘dynamic transition’: Stretch then jump

  2. Warm-up routine that elites used for years is hard to change drastically and abruptly: stretching in warm up have psychological reasons as well due habbits… kicking stretching out you may gain 2% in power, but lose 20% in motivation

  3. Sometimes teams have poor warm-up, like jogging, streching on the floor for 15mins and then starting with high intensity.

  4. Everybody is different, also in team settings. Not that everybody need different warm-up, but they need their own time to work on the areas they feel the need to do

  5. Strething in the warm-up is more a TEST to see if everything is ok, rather than a mean to warm-up, prevent injury or increase ROM. If you feel stiff, you will make it worse with stretching. Do easy, gentle dynamic warm-up, then test the ROM and looseness with easy stretch and if ok proceed if not do more warm-up for the area.

  6. “Do whatever you need to do” — C.F.: why would you limit yourself with bunch of rules, like NO STRETCHING? I was used to be like that, but I now try to teach my athletes PRINCIPLES of good warm-up, how they need to feel and should they progress.

  7. Having said this, I guess INTERMITTENT stretching is the best solution. Athlete have their own time in the team warm-up, they can test if they are loose. So basically, you do progresive dynamic warm-up with periods of easy statical stretching used to test the looseness and keep your athletes happy :slight_smile:

Hope this helps

Having done my master’s thesis on warm-up in high school soccer players, I can tell you my results:


There is an immediate reduction, but it may only last a few minutes.

Good points and remember the static stretch/test may not really be a stretch at all. The athlete gets in the position and all’s fine- it’s not really a stretch.
intermittent checks/stretches tells you where you are as you progress through the warm-up and dynamic work later in the warm-up takes care of any lack of power that might have been there for 5 minutes a bit earlier.

A lot of the static stretching negatives come from holds too high intensity and for too long. Light holds of 8-12 seconds will probably only help if you need them. The problem is people get into this idea you either need to stretch each muscle group 3 times as hard as you can for a while or you can’t stretch at all. There can be a nice in between and if you need to stretch, you need to stretch. I personally noticed that when I am tapered, I usually don’t need much more than a slight check on different areas, but that isn’t to say I wouldn’t use static stretching if I was slightly tight somewhere.

Where does a 30min rule come from? How long was the stretch held? How much was the muscle stretched? How warm was the athlete?
The reaction will be commensurate with the input!

i heard the 30 min rule a few times i dont know if it is true which is why i had a question mark…muscle stretched 15 sec …really stretching hard feeling discomfort…can athletes become too flexible…are some static stretches beneficial in a warm up

Well, it isn’t!

Charlie, have you got my email? Sometimes I have issues with outlook?

I have it here somewhere. Did you send the info I requested so I could forward it?

I send it on the mail you provided. I’ll send you too in a sec.

I believe there was some research with isokinetic testing and extreme stretching that showed up to 30 minutes. I gave a talk to a soccer club and one coach said he didn’t do any static stretching cause it decreased sprint speed by 20%! I asked him where he got this from and if he actually thought about how large 20% is. He didn’t get it until I pointed it out to him.

The purpose of stretching is to be able to move without “tightness”. If the athlete has assimilated the training instead of being annihilated by it, often the tightness or soreness will be minimal.

The other consideration tied up with this is Massage. I know it’s expensive and I didn’t like to do it, thereby avoiding even the possibility of weirdness if any of my athletes were crazy.

But with some solid massage, hitting trigger points etc, the need for stretching of any kind during the warmup was largely reduced if not virtually eliminated.

ESTI, Duxx, others: I would be very interested to know if there is any research (a brief abstract would suffice:D) on the implications of hydration and heat on flexibility.

We all have been there on those real hot summer days when the warmup takes considerably less than normal, so heat seems to be a huge player in the loosening, mobilising process - hence perhaps the success of the “continuous warmup” which heats you up internally as it were.

Not that I know of. My main area was geared toward the youth sport coach. What was tough to explain was issues such as heat and hydration, massage etc, but couldn’t be touched upon in my paper(s) because we didn’t test it.

For example, in one paper draft, I wrote how although static stretching may cause an immediate decrease in performance, stretching it self may lead to increases in sprint speed over the long term. However, I couldn’t find any “credible” source to use and had to omit this section of the paper. (only source I could find was something by Charlie in one of the products).

My experience in this process was unless the point’s been shown before, you will be criticized and often not accepted for publication if you break the research status quo.

KitKat, I’m finishing my editing work for Dr. Verkhoshansky’s latest coaching manual and it is he provides a lengthy chapter on warm up and some very interesting findings of the Soviets pertaining to optimal core body temperatures and durations of time under the optimal temperature as well as how climate and clothing affects the dynamics.

Very interesting material.

I have read research using muscle core temp with individual fibers and contraction speeds. Is this work with humans, in particular athletes, maybe of different ability levels ?

The context of the literature pertains to speed-strength athletes and, if I remember correctly (because I don’t have the work in front of me) the data was collected from T&F athletes (I don’t recall if it stated the qualification levels)

Wow! James, you’re in a privileged position. Anything you may be able to share - in the process of bringing awareness of his new book - I’m sure would be appreciated by the forum. Thanks in any case.

Probably too late and irrelevant anyways, but for whatever it’s worth, this article cites some studies where long-term stretching enhances speed/power activities.