Why hockey players static strech BEFORE they workout at Revolution Conditioning.

Hope you had a great weekend – I was super bummed to see the Blues get knocked out of the play-offs.  This led to a very cranky Sunday afternoon and evening.  Really, I don’t even want to talk about it, so let’s get down to the business of explaining why hockey players static stretch before their workout at Revolution Conditioning.

Why hockey players static stretch before their workout

When I get the question “why do your hockey players (or any athletes for that matter) static stretch before they workout at Revolution Conditioning?” my first answer is…’because Mike Boyle told me to’.  The second short answer is… ‘because it works’.  In other words, I started doing it because Mike does it, I continue doing it because it works.

I have had the question a few times in the past week, so I thought it would be a great topic to clarify.  The question comes in different versions, but here is the basic –

“I heard static stetching before you worked out was dangerous”

Okay, let’s get one thing straight…running with scissors is dangerous.  Static stretching?  I am not sure about that.  Although I do not know of any research that concludes static stretching before training is ‘dangerous’, there is evidence that it decreases peak force production and peak power production.

For example a study by Rosenbaum & Hennig found that static stretching decreased peak force by 5% and power output by 8% when testing the Achilles tendon reflex, so not an active contraction, but the reflexive contraction one gets when stimulating a stretch reflex (picture the knee jerk reflex that your doctor checks by hitting just below your knee cap with a little rubber hammer).

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 hand no impact on power production as measured by single leg vertical jump.

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.

I don’t use one repetition maximum training or testing at Revolution, so we are never training at peak force production.  The lowest we go is 2 reps for power and usually 3-4 when training strength.

What about a static stretch followed by dynamic warm up?

Okay, now it gets interesting and here’s why.  After we static stretch we incorporate our dynamic warm-up circuit.  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) which supports the fact that static stretching followed by dynamic warm up negates the decrease in peak force and peak power production.

If I complete my risk: reward analysis, the static stretching wins out.  Basically, I have the athletes in my care 1-4 times per week in the Revolution studio.  I can guarantee that they get a good stretch on each of those visits.

I know that the majority of them will not static stretch on their own – even if I ask them to, tell them to and/or give them a handout showing them exactly what to do.  And it is probably the ones who need it most who do it the least.

Finally, much to my surprise, when I added this to my programs two years ago…they liked it!  Yes, I actually had 15 year old boys telling me that the stretching felt good and could we please do it again tomorrow – – SOLD!

So let’s summarize.  I include static stretching at the start of our workouts at Revolution Conditioning because:

  • Mike Boyle told me to
  • Most of my 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
  • Even if they couldn’t my priority is on movement before strength and power
  • The athletes like it

I do not see a downside. If you would like to check out some of the research referenced in this article, here are the citations – 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.

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.