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Sitting down is a better warm up than stretching

Sitting down is a better warm up than stretching


The outline

Static stretching has a negative effect on sports performance through decreased explosive potential. Most easily assessed through a counter-movement jump (CMJ), where you quickly squat down and jump as high as you can. This tests how well you quickly lengthen and shorten muscles. This is known as the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). The SSC is the basis for almost every explosive movement we make during sports. So if stretching weakens this mechanism it is reducing your sports performance.

The SSC requires our muscles to be stiff as our muscles are very elastic. Meaning the greater the force required to stretch, the greater the rebounding force to its normal length. Like an elastic band, the harder you pull it to stretch it the harder it snaps back to its original length. Circling back to our CMJ, the more energy the muscle resists when squatting down (muscle stiffness), the more energy it puts into returning to its normal length, pushing you higher into the air. We can extrapolate from this to say that every stride we take running utilises the SSC in our calves to propel you forward, as well as any other explosive movement.

The study

Knudson et al. studied the effect of stretching prior to jumping, as it’s an easy way to assess the SSC. Surprisingly they found no difference in how the participants jumped. Meaning that the mechanics of jumping didn’t change after stretching. Had their muscle stiffness been altered the variables assessed (knee angle, squat time, jump time) would have changed and they didn’t. The participants took the same amount of time to squat to the same depth and jump after stretching or sitting down resting. Suggesting that there was no change on the SSC. However, they did not jump as forcefully after stretching. 


Herein lies the practical take away, for those looking to squeeze out every ounce of their athletic potential during a game, this study would suggest you just sit down and chill. More accurately it suggests not to perform static stretching prior to sport, as it  would make you slower and less powerful. They only saw a decrease of 0.07m/s (peak vertical jump velocity) which was 3% down from the 2.36m/s after sitting down resting. But this is before you even start playing, these tests were done from fresh with 10 minutes of stretching or 10 minutes of sitting down. Most people only get more tired and hence even slower as their match goes on. Stretching would start you off at a disadvantage. Saying that sitting down having a coffee is a better warm-up pre-sport than stretching….. Doesn’t that sound good to you?

If it doesn’t affect the SSC, and there is no physical effect on the muscle stiffness, why does the performance drop?


Knudson, D., Bennett, K., Corn, R. O. D., Leick, D., & Smith, C. (2001). Acute effects of stretching are not evident in the kinematics of the vertical jump. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 15(1), 98-101. 10.1519/00124278-200102000-00017

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