How to include static stretching in your fitness program

programming stretching time of day
Man. Stretch. Hip.

When to stretch – best time of day, before or after training, to improve flexibility while NOT losing muscle strength.

There are three main types of self-stretching. These are static (hold), dynamic (fluid movement), and ballistic (bouncing). They are all active modes of stretching, including static stretching. Even if there is no noticeable movement during static stretching the muscle is still active to hold the position, and there is resistance applied to the muscle by the exerciser to maintain the stretched position. With trainer assisted stretching, the force to hold the position is applied by the trainer.

In physics a static system is something that does not change. In exercise and biomechanics, the use of the terms static and dynamic are used to describe whether the body is still (static) or moving (dynamic). The best way to visualize a static stretch is to think about something that is active but does not change positions. When someone does a static stretch like in yoga, they get into a stretch and hold it there. In other words, during static stretching a muscle is maintained in one place without noticeable movement of the limb or torso.

 Best Time to do Static Stretching

Static stretching is recommended after exercise because it impacts muscle elasticity and can directly influence muscle strength and power output. Another consideration is muscle warmth or lack there-of. Muscles are most pliable when they are warm. Flexibility training, especially static stretching, and any stretching for that matter, should be done after exercise or, at a minimum, after a light to moderate intensity warmup.

Best Time of Day to do Static Stretching

Because body temperature peaks at 4 to 6 p.m., this means that muscles are their most pliable around that time; therefore, the recommended best time of day to stretch to improve overall muscle elasticity and joint range of motion is between 4 and 6 pm daily (Ashmore, 2020).

 

Is it Bad to Do Static Stretching Before Training and Competition?

Depends. There is a huge debate about the value of static stretching versus the damage to performance it can cause prior to training and competition. The current belief is that static stretching has a negative effect on muscle performance. But the impact of static stretching on performance depends upon which performance variable is being measured like muscle endurance, strength, and/or power and the specifics of the stretch being done, like the duration of each stretch and the time between stretching and performance. Mechanisms associated with decreased performance outcomes have been debated for over 25 years and include both neural (decreased voluntary activation and motoneuron excitability) and morphological (force-length and elasticity changes in the muscle itself) explanations (Behm, 2021).  Most likely different mechanisms are associated with different performance decrements under specific training and performance conditions and need more research. In a recent study on the effects of static stretching on performance, the results showed that static stretching reduced muscle endurance performance; however, muscle rate of force production and range of motion were improved (Ikeda, 2021).

 

Static stretching prior to competition has long been associated with negative performance outcomes, whether these decrements are real or not, it is a personal preference. Many athletes like to do static stretches before training and competition for performance related goals or strictly personal enjoyment. To lessen the impact of static stretches on performance historical data suggests limiting each stretch to 30 seconds or less, and if static stretching is done before competition or training, provide at least five minutes of rest between stretching and activity (Ashmore, 2020). The reason is to give muscles time to recover contractility properties lost during static stretching before an exercise session or competitive event.

Sample Program

The table below shows a sample flexibility program for static stretching to maintain desired muscle performance outcomes.

 

Type of Stretching

Frequency

Duration of Stretch Before Event or Training

Rest Between Stretching and Training or Event

Duration of Stretch After Event or Training

Static

Monday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Tuesday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Wednesday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Thursday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Friday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Saturday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

Static

Sunday

Less than 30 seconds

5 minutes

30 seconds or more

 

Static stretching is a best method approach to increase overall flexibility; however, where muscle performance is a factor keep these programming tips in mind:

  • Before training or events, keep static stretches to less than 30 seconds
  • If static stretching is used before training or events, provide at least five minutes of dynamic activity between stretching and performance.
  • Do static stretches in which each stretch is held for more than 30 seconds after a sport event or training.
  • Hold stretches up to 60 seconds to improve functional range of motion.

To explore the latest on RT programming and earn 8 HRS CE for PTs and PTAs, click here OR visit our courses page, click here.

References

Ashmore, Amy. 2020. Timing Resistance Training: Programming the Muscle Clock for Optimal Performance, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL.

Behm DG, Kay AD, Trajano GS, Blazevich AJ. Mechanisms underlying performance impairments following prolonged static stretching without a comprehensive warm-up. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2021 Jan;121(1):67-94. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04538-8. Epub 2020 Nov 11. PMID: 33175242.

Ikeda N, Ryushi T. Effects of 6-Week Static Stretching of Knee Extensors on Flexibility, Muscle Strength, Jump Performance, and Muscle Endurance. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Mar 1;35(3):715-723. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002819. PMID: 30161088.

 

SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST TRAINING R & D

Opt in to receive the latest updates on resistance training research for the gym and health and medicine.

I hate a ton of emails and promise to carefully select RT information to share. I will never sell your information, for any reason.