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An Updated Look At Static Stretching Before Play or Practice

An Updated Look At Static Stretching Before Play or Practice

Minnesota Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom

Niklas Backstrom stretches before a game. By this point goalies should have already done both a static stretch and dynamic warm up. (Photo by Kevin Woodley)

First off, let me apologize because I know that some of you are just discovering that static stretching will decrease your power output. This has probably led you to break your long established routine of the pre-game stretch.

For some of you this was your only warm up – other than having your teammates fire slappers at your face once you step between the pipes for your on-ice ‘warm up.’ Others may have taken my previous advice and incorporated a dynamic warm up.

I am apologizing because I am now going to tell you that you should in fact static stretch before your practices and games.

There are a few reasons I tell you this, but to be completely honest what brought me back to static stretching was when one of my mentors, Coach Mike Boyle, told me to. When someone with as much experience and success tells you to do something, it is wise to give it a try.

So that is why I started doing it three years ago, but the reason I still do it with all the athletes at Revolution Conditioning is because it works. Let’s look at the science a bit and try to answer the question that I get at an increasing rate: “Isn’t stretching before a workout or game bad for you?”

Although I do not know of any research that concludes static stretching before training is ‘bad,’ there is scientific support that it decreases peak force production and peak power production.

A published study by Rosenbaum & Hennig found that static stretching decreased peak force by 5 per cent and power output by 8 per cent when testing the Achilles tendon reflex. It is important to recognize that this study was not testing an active contraction, but rather a reflexive contraction like the one you get when the doctor tests your knee jerk reflex by striking your patellar tendon just below the knee cap.

In a more recent study Power et al. found that two repetitions of 30 seconds of static stretching decreased the peak force production capability of a muscle, but had a corresponding increase in flexibility (in this case the sit and reach) and had no impact on power production as measured by single leg vertical jump.

Okay, so that means that you could not lift as heavy a load, but you can still be just as explosive AND be more flexible. And since you are not often required to lift a heavy load when you are on the ice – heck even in the gym you are not lifting for a single rep max very often (we actually never do it at Revolution Conditioning) – I think I can live with more flexibility and the same power.

Since my philosophy prioritizes quality of movement over peak force production, I would rather have the gains in mobility and lose a few percent on the peak force production end of the spectrum.

What if there were a way to hedge our bets so to speak? A way to get the mobility benefits of the static stretch and maintain our force/power production?

Here’s how we do it. After we static stretch we incorporate the dynamic warm-up circuit you should have already been doing.

Why?

Answer 1: because we have used a dynamic warm-up successfully for over 10 years.

Answer 2: because Mike said so.

Answer 3: because there is scientific research (including the study by Sim et al. listed below) that supports the fact static stretching followed by dynamic warm up negates the decrease in peak force and peak power production found in other studies.

If I complete my risk-reward analysis, the static stretching wins out.

So let’s summarize.

You should include a static stretch circuit followed by a dynamic warm up series before you workout, practice or play because …

• Mike Boyle said so
• Most athletes need better mobility
• Static stretching may reduce the risk of muscles strains
• When followed by a dynamic warm up the athlete can still produce force and power
• It feels good

I do not see a downside. If you would like to check out some of the research referenced in this article, the citations are listed below – these are just a few of the studies available, you could literally spend days, weeks or more looking deeper and deeper into the research. My goal to day was not to offer a meta-analysis, but to give some scientific support to this practice.

NExt week we’ll post a video with some good static stretches and tips for you to work into your pre-game routine.

– Rosenbaum, D. & Hennig, E.M. 1995. The influence of stretching and warm-up exercises on Achilles tendon reflex activity. Journal of Sport Sciences vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 481–90.

– POWER, K., D. BEHM, F. CAHILL, M. CARROLL, and W. YOUNG. An Acute Bout of Static Stretching: Effects on Force and Jumping Performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 8, pp. 1389–1396, 2004.

– Sim AY, Dawson BT, Guelfi KJ, Wallman KE, Young WB.Effects of static stretching in warm-up on repeated sprint performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2155-62.

About The Author

Maria Mountain M.Sc.

Hockey strength and conditioning coach Maria Mountain, MSc specializes in off-ice training for hockey goalies. As the founder of www.GoalieTrainingPro.com and the owner of Revolution Sport Conditioning in London, Ontario, Maria has trained Olympic Gold medalists, a Stanley Cup Champ and athletes from MLB, NHL, AHL, CHL, CIS and more. Try Maria's Goalie Stretch Solution today.

4 Comments

  1. brianna

    soooo i should or should not stretch on the ice before games??

  2. Dan

    lol

  3. Sara

    So, as I’m still a little confused 🙂 how does this sound:
    1. slow increasing to medium jog, including sideways and backwards jogging, to warm the legs and get the heart pumping,
    2. static stretching
    3. then your 12 minute dynamic goalie warm up routine to finish

  4. Richard St-Onge

    Ok, so back when, I used to do static stretching only. For the past 3-5 years I have done active stretching followed by a short warm-up (skating) followed by static stretching on ice, and THEN movement warm-ups (ie shuffles, t-pushes, b-fly slides and recoveries).

    This helps me keep warm, nimble and ready 🙂