December 2002 Strength and Conditioning Journal 33
© National Strength & Conditioning Association
Volume 24, Number 6, pages 33–37
Should Static Stretching Be
Used During a Warm-Up for
Strength and Power Activities?
Warren B. Young, PhD
University of Ballarat
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
David G. Behm, PhD
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Keywords: warm-up; static stretching; strength and power.
WARM-UP BEFORE PHYSICAL
activity is a universally accepted
practice with the objective of
preparing the athlete physically
and mentally for optimum perfor-
mance and is believed to reduce
the risk of injury and enhance
performance (15, 25). Warm-ups
typically contain 3 components:
• A relatively low-intensity aero-
bic component that is general
in nature such as submaxi-
mum running. The rationale
given for this is that it increas-
es core and muscle tempera-
ture, which improves neuro-
muscular function (15, 22, 28).
• Some stretching of the speciﬁc
muscles involved in the subse-
quent activity. Some athletes
may spend 30 minutes or
longer systematically stretch-
ing each muscle group. There
are many variations of stretch-
ing protocols such as proprio-
ceptive neuromuscular facili-
tation (PNF), static, and
dynamic methods. These
methods are outlined thor-
oughly in texts such as Alter
(1) and Norris (22) and will not
be discussed in detail in this
study. Although the optimum
method for increasing ﬂexibili-
ty over a relatively long time
may be debatable, passive stat-
ic stretching remains a popu-
lar method used in a pre-exer-
cise or precompetition warm-
up routine. This usually in-
volves moving a limb to the end
of its range of motion (ROM)
and holding it in the stretched
position for 15–60 seconds
(22). The objective of stretching
in a warm-up is usually to
achieve a short-term increase
in the ROM at a joint (8, 15,
22) or to induce muscle relax-
ation and therefore decrease
the stiffness of the muscle-ten-
don system (7, 22).
• Rehearsal of the skill about to
be performed. This is usually
performed at gradually in-
creasing intensities, culminat-
ing in some efforts that are
equal to or greater than the
expected competition intensi-
ty. This type of warm-up
serves to activate or recruit the
specific muscle fibers and
neural pathways required to
achieve optimum neuromus-
cular performance (15).
Although the need for a warm-
up before maximum effort
strength and power exercise is
rarely questioned, the precise pro-
tocol leading to optimum perfor-
mance is not well established. The
purpose of this article is to discuss
warm-up and, in particular, to re-
view recent research that ques-
tions the traditional use of static
stretching in a warm-up before
strength and power activities. For
the purpose of this discussion,
strength is defined as the maxi-
mum force produced in a static
maximum voluntary contraction,
relatively slow isokinetic contrac-
tion, or the maximum weight lift-
ed in a 1 repetition maximum test.
Power activities are considered to
be any movements requiring sig-
niﬁcant amounts of both force and
speed, such as a vertical jump.
34 Strength and Conditioning Journal December 2002
■Static Stretching in the
Although static stretching has
been found to be effective in caus-
ing an acute increase in the ROM
at a joint (1, 11, 17, 30), research
indicating that static stretching
can also produce a significant
acute decrement, of approximate-
ly 5–30%, in strength (2, 6, 12, 18,
19) and power production (4, 5,
16, 31, 32) of the stretched muscle
groups has accumulated. These
ﬁndings have led some researchers
to recommend against the practice
of stretching before strength or
power activities (4, 16). But it is
not clear whether the detrimental
effects of stretching used in sever-
al studies could have a negative ef-
fect on strength and power perfor-
mance in athletes because the
protocols used were not represen-
tative of the typical warm-up meth-
ods used by athletes to prepare for
exercise or competition. For exam-
ple, stretch treatments of 15-
minute duration or longer have
been used for a single muscle
group (2, 6, 12), which is a greater
duration than that commonly used
by many athletes for stretch treat-
ments. Furthermore, some studies
observed performance decrements
after stretching—when there was
no aerobic component or submax-
imum exercise preceding the
stretching (4, 6, 12, 18, 19) or
when there were no practice trials
of the test activity (2–4, 6, 18, 19).
Although this research design is
necessary to isolate the inﬂuence
of stretching, it is possible that the
aerobic or low-intensity exercise
and practice components of a
warm-up may offset any potential
negative effects of stretching. For
example, a study by Knudson et al.
(10) reported a nonsigniﬁcant de-
crease in vertical jump perfor-
mance after a static stretching
routine. Fifty-five percent of the
subjects experienced a decrease in
performance, whereas other sub-
jects either experienced no change
or an increase in performance
after stretching. In this study the
participants performed 3 minutes
of submaximum cycling and 3
practice vertical jumps before the
stretching. It is possible that for
45% of the subjects who exhibited
no decrease in performance, the
cycling and practice jumps had a
A recent study has attempted
to identify the influence of sub-
maximum running, static stretch-
ing, and practice jump that are
components of a warm-up (31).
On the basis of a test of concentric
vertical jump height, 4 minutes of
running was significantly better
than a control warm-up, and run-
ning plus 4 minutes of total
stretching of the quadriceps and
gluteals was significantly worse
than just running. Furthermore,
running plus stretching plus 4
practice jumps was significantly
better than the running plus
stretching warm-up. These results
suggest that stretching produced
a negative effect, whereas the run
and the practice jumps produced
positive effects in the warm-up for
vertical jumps. Unfortunately, the
study did not examine the effect of
a run plus practice jumps warm-
up, which may be expected to pro-
duce the best results. This study
supports previous research and
indicates that in more realistic
athletic warm-up conditions, as
little as 2 minutes of static
stretching per muscle group can
impair power performance.
■Mechanisms of Stretch-
Various authors have speculated
about the mechanism that explains
the impairment of muscle force.
Neural inhibition (2, 6, 29) and in-
creased muscle-tendon compliance
leading to a reduced rate of force
transmission from the muscle to
the skeletal system (4, 12, 18, 19)
have been suggested as possible
mechanisms. Because static
stretching can significantly in-
crease muscle soreness and mus-
cle damage, as indicated by elevat-
ed creatine kinase in the blood (27),
tissue damage is another possibili-
ty to explain acute performance
decrement. But the precise mecha-
nism(s) that leads to stretch-in-
duced reductions in strength and
power is not clear (2, 6).
There is some evidence that
the impairment may be concen-
trated and related to certain joint
angles (18), contraction types (5,
32), or contraction velocities (19).
It has also been shown that ballis-
tic stretching can inhibit strength
(20), and a PNF stretch protocol
produced a greater negative effect
on vertical jump performance
than that produced after a static
stretch warm-up (3), but consid-
erably more research is required
to clarify the precise stretching
protocols that produce an effect
and the performance conditions
that are most affected.
■Stretching and Injury
The question that follows is:
should static stretching be elimi-
nated from a warm-up before
strength and power activities? To
answer this, the negative effects
should be weighed against the po-
tential injury prevention beneﬁts
of static stretching. It has been
traditionally believed that static
stretching reduces the risk of
muscle-tendon injury; however,
there is mounting evidence to the
contrary (9, 26). For example,
Pope et al. (23) reported in a large
prospective study that stretching
in a warm-up did not signiﬁcantly
December 2002 Strength and Conditioning Journal 35
reduce the risk of injury in army
recruits undergoing high-intensi-
It is clear that static stretching
is effective in causing an acute in-
crease in the ROM at a joint (stat-
ic ﬂexibility) (1, 17, 30). It is not so
clear whether submaximum exer-
cise, e.g., running, cycling, in-
creases ROM (17, 30). But it is
thought that the injury prevention
benefit of warm-up resides in a
short-term reduction in muscle
stiffness rather than simply in-
creased joint ROM (7, 8). Reduced
stiffness is associated with less re-
sistance (force) to stretch when the
muscle is relaxed (passive stiff-
ness) so that there is less likeli-
hood of damage when the muscle
is elongated (7). Static stretching
has been found to reduce passive
muscle-tendon stiffness for up to 1
hour (13, 14), but a reduction has
not always been found (30). Fur-
thermore, when muscle-tendon
stiffness is measured during mus-
cle contraction (active stiffness), it
has been found to be unaffected by
stretching (8, 17). In contrast, 10
minutes of running has been
found to be effective for reducing
the active stiffness of the calf mus-
cles (17). Increased muscle tem-
perature has been shown to in-
crease the resistance to muscle
tear (21, 25). Therefore, if active
rather than passive stiffness is re-
lated to injury risk, this suggests
that increasing muscle tempera-
ture by submaximum exercise
would be more important than
stretching for decreasing the risk
of soft tissue injury (9). But the ef-
fect of running and stretching on
passive and active muscle-tendon
stiffness and injury prevention in
general is still unclear (9).
■Summary and Practical
Substantial evidence is now avail-
able to state that static stretching
can impair strength and power
performance, although the dura-
tion of the impairment, the exact
stretching protocols, and the
physiological mechanisms are not
yet known. Given the lack of evi-
dence in favor of static stretching
during warm-up for injury pre-
vention, it seems justiﬁable to ex-
clude this component from the
warm-up for strength and power
activities. Progressive submaximal
exercise intended to increase
muscle temperature and practice
trials of the ensuing activity
should be retained.
Some coaches have replaced
static stretching with dynamic ac-
tivities. For example, Rutledge and
Faccioni (24) outlined warm up
activities for ﬁeld hockey that con-
sisted of running drills that isolat-
ed various joints and were per-
formed with gradually increasing
intensity. When an athlete per-
forms run-throughs at progres-
sively increasing intensities, the
joints are taken to a new ROM;
therefore, the muscles are being
stretched dynamically. Whether
such a dynamic warm-up has the
same effect as static stretching for
increasing ROM or inﬂuencing the
injury risk is not clear, but is wor-
thy of examination. Further ex-
perimentation is needed before the
optimum warm up protocol can be
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December 2002 Strength and Conditioning Journal 37
Warren Young, is Senior Lecturer
with the School of Movement and
Sport Sciences at the University of
Ballarat in Victoria, Australia.
David G. Behm, is an associate
professor in the School of Human
Kinetics and Recreation at Memo-
rial University of Newfoundland.