Do You Stretch Before A Match?

A picture of a woman performing a Yoga move in front of the ocean. She’s doing a split and has her hands together over her head. Her arms are straight.

Stretching before practice or a match is super common.

In fact, as I sit here and think back, I’m finding it hard to remember a time when I didn’t stretch before either.

But did you ever stop to think about whether or not this common warm-up practice was having a positive impact on your performance?

Hopefully this post will help provide more insight on it.

What The Research Says:

Here are some key points from reference 1:

The researchers used their findings to conclude that static stretching (at least the protocol used in the study) had a negative impact on upper body maximum strength in Jiu-Jitsu athletes. On average, the Jiu-Jitsu athletes experienced an 8.75% decrease in strength output after stretching.

Not only was there an average decrease of 8.75%, the researchers also found that none of the subjects performed better on the Bench Press after stretching.

To summarize- in zero cases did stretching before improve Bench Press performance.

The researchers used these conclusions to state that, according to their findings, it does not seem beneficial for the subjects to static stretch before activities where upper body max strength was needed for success.

Here are some key points from the meta-analysis in reference 2:

The authors found a potential 4,559 possible articles and studies to include in the analysis. 106 of the found papers met the inclusion criteria (pre-exercise static stretching).

The researchers found overwhelming evidence suggesting that static stretching as part of a pre-activity routine that required maximal strength, power, and/or speed to be achieved has a negative impact on performance.

Short static stretching (less than 45 seconds) was shown to have minimal effects on strength, power, and speed when used in a pre-activity routine. However, longer stretches (held for more than a minute) were shown to cause a “small to moderate” decrease in performance output.

And finally, here are some relevant conclusions from reference 3:

The researchers in this study found that dynamic stretching, as part of a warm-up, was found to improve one repetition maximum Bench Press strength. The researchers concluded that implementation of a dynamic stretching/warm-up routine improved performance by an average weight of 3 ± 4.18 kg (6.6 ± 9.2 pounds).

Obviously, based on these findings, the researchers concluded that dynamic stretching/warm-up “may” improve maximum Bench Press performance.

Papers Referenced

Costa, E., C. dos Santos, J. Prestes, J. da Silva, M. Knackfuss. Acute effect of static stretching on the strength performance of jiu-jitsu athletes in horizontal bench press. Fitness Performance Journal. 8(3), 212-217. 2009.

Kay, A., A. Blazevich. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. Vol. 44, No. 1, 154-164. 2012.

Shaw, J. The effect of dynamic stretching on bench press 1 repetition maximum (1rm) performance when incorporated into a warm-up. Journal of Sports Science. 01, 001-0025. 2013.

Is Stretching Slowing You Down?

With 2 of the studies I present above, the Bench Press is the exercise that’s used to measure the effects of stretching.

So while lower body power production wasn’t studied, the conclusions definitely support following an active protocol (dynamic stretching) instead of a passive one (static stretching).

In a way this makes sense, doesn’t it? Being active before a physical endeavor is more effective at warming you up than not being active.

But, like I mentioned above, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t stretch before a practice or a match.

Anyway, let me know what your thoughts are on stretching and whether or not you think it helps or hurts your performance by commenting below.

Related Posts:

Positional Release for Wrestling

Positional Release For Hips

Proper Hamstring Stretching for Low Back

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Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • I was always told stretching is for injury-prevention purposes rather than maximizing strength output. In some situations where an opponent is trying to extend a limb, wouldn’t flexibility be a big factor in preventing them from scoring? Wrestling at 106, I have seen many flexible kids get out of very tough situations that would otherwise have led to a near-fall or even a pin.

    Reply
    • Hey Moonis, thanks for leaving a comment. One of the best presentations I’ve ever seen was by Alwyn Cosgrove. He started it with a number of situations going back and forth between athletes who warm-up different ways, including static stretching. One of the images he put up was of a high level martial artist (I can’t remember who) and Alwyn said “you could argue with this guy about why he shouldn’t be static stretching all the time, but he’d just kick your head off.” Basically what he was getting at is that although there may be conclusions in research that favor one style of training over another, successfully implementing a training style/principle has a lot to do with the benefits the person feels he/she is getting from the activity.

      With that said, here’s my take on stretching and flexibility.

      First, from what I’ve seen in the research I’ve looked at, most sports scientists would agree the effects of stretching are short lived. Additionally, long stretches (a minute or more) actually reduce the effects of the Golgi Tendon Organs (a type of proprioceptor in the muscles whose primary function is is to protect the muscles from the injurious effects of excessive force production).

      Additionally, based on some of the research in the post Physiological Profile Of The Ideal Wrestler, the flexibility conclusions were as follows…

      In the 2nd study I present which looked at 8 members of the 1997 Men’s Freestyle World Team:

      Flexibility- “surprisingly low” 1 wrestler couldn’t reach his toes during a sit-and-reach test, 2 received scores of 0 (only able to reach toes, but not beyond), the other 5 were able to reach past their toes; the max about 9.5 cm past.

      In the 3rd study on elite Iranian Freestyle wrestlers:

      Flexibility- The average was approximately 8cm more than in the study of Elite US Freestyle Wrestlers.

      In the 5th study on elite senior level wrestlers:

      Flexibility- While flexibility measurements have produced less than impressive results, “the flexibility of top-level wrestlers was higher than that of lower level wrestlers.”

      So based on those findings, I would say that there doesn’t seem to be a definitive set of data that says “high level wrestlers are significantly more flexible that wrestlers who aren’t as successful.”

      But, with that said, I think it’s individually specific. For instance, I’ve always been fairly flexible. I joke and tell people that I can almost do a split upon rising each morning. While I’ve never tried this, I’m pretty confident I’d get damn close. Because of that, I was able to do things on the mat that other wrestlers couldn’t and as a result, I developed a style partially around my flexibility.

      So, while I personally don’t really buy into static stretching as a means to greatly enhance flexibility, I definitely think that those who are flexible can benefit from it.

      And again, I’d never argue with any of my Jiu-Jitsu coaches (some of whom are big believers in static stretching).

      Why?

      Because I don’t want them to tear my arm off.

      Thanks again for the comment man, I hope this helps. Let me know what other questions you have.

      I’ll talk to you soon.

      Reply
  • Nice scientific backing on this. I use dynamic stretching with my warm up routine and with the high school team I coach at as well.

    In a nutshell it gets the body clicking and blood going, as opposed to static which I call lazy stretching haha.

    Reply
    • Hey Oliver, haven’t heard from you in a while. How have you been and how’s training going?

      Yeah, I definitely think dynamic work is the way to go. I enjoy static stretching, but I definitely think it’s better used at the end of a practice/workout.

      Hopefully you find the “mini-research” I write about next week helpful.

      Talk to you soon man.

      Reply
  • Hey Dickie, I like the report – it matches up well with many other articles I’ve been reading as of late about the possible detrimental effect on power production of stretching before an event. I have a few questions though…

    1). What do you think of a static stretch routine post-workout? Is there still benefit to static stretches as a cool down? Or perhaps before going to bed? Are there benefits to static stretching in these cases, or is it still not that advantageous/possibly detrimental?

    2). Could you suggest a wrestling specific dynamic warmup routine for before a wrestling practice? And one specific for a warmup pre-lift?

    Reply
    • Hey Peter,

      1. I think static stretching post-workout is a great idea. I haven’t yet, but I will put it on top of my list of things to do, found any research on a benefit from static stretching as a cool down and/or just later in the day. I don’t think there’d be any reason that it would be detrimental. Most of the research I’ve seen is that the results from static stretching are short lived. So I can’t imagine that doing it after a workout or before bed would cause any kind of a decrease in performance.

      2. You, sir, have just given me a great blog post idea to conclude this series with. Next week I’ll have a pretty good post on the “mini-research” that this post has inspired me to conduct. But after that, I’ll put together a post on a dynamic routine and even see if I can get some guys to try it out and measure what effects it has on shot speed and power.

      Thanks for the comment man, talk to you soon.

      Reply

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