Mechanisms underlying performance impairments following prolonged static stretching without a comprehensive warm-up
European Journal of Applied Physiology
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
© 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Whereas a variety of pre-exercise activities have been incorporated as part of a “warm-up” prior to work, combat, and athletic activities for millennia, the inclusion of static stretching (SS) within a warm-up has lost favor in the last 25 years. Research emphasized the possibility of SS-induced impairments in subsequent performance following prolonged stretching without proper dynamic warm-up activities. Proposed mechanisms underlying stretch-induced deficits include both neural (i.e., decreased voluntary activation, persistent inward current effects on motoneuron excitability) and morphological (i.e., changes in the force–length relationship, decreased Ca2+ sensitivity, alterations in parallel elastic component) factors. Psychological influences such as a mental energy deficit and nocebo effects could also adversely affect performance. However, significant practical limitations exist within published studies, e.g., long-stretching durations, stretching exercises with little task specificity, lack of warm-up before/after stretching, testing performed immediately after stretch completion, and risk of investigator and participant bias. Recent research indicates that appropriate durations of static stretching performed within a full warm-up (i.e., aerobic activities before and task-specific dynamic stretching and intense physical activities after SS) have trivial effects on subsequent performance with some evidence of improved force output at longer muscle lengths. For conditions in which muscular force production is compromised by stretching, knowledge of the underlying mechanisms would aid development of mitigation strategies. However, these mechanisms are yet to be perfectly defined. More information is needed to better understand both the warm-up components and mechanisms that contribute to performance enhancements or impairments when SS is incorporated within a pre-activity warm-up.