Static stretching involves attaining a stretch to the point of mild discomfort and holding the position for at least 10 seconds. Dynamic stretching involves rapid repeated alternation between a stretched and a relaxed position.
A recent article by Amiri-Khorasani et al. in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (vol. 24, no. 10, pp. 2698-2704, 2010) showed that static stretching detracts from performance on a physical agility test, while dynamic stretching tends to improve it.
Nineteen professional soccer players were divided into more-experienced and less-experienced subgroups. Their performance on an agility test, which involved 14-15 seconds of changing direction and zigzagging as fast as possible around a number of cones, was tested after each of the following:
- No stretching
- Static stretching
- Dynamic stretching
- Combined static and dynamic stretching
- The subjects were 4-5% slower after static and combined static/dynamic stretching than they were with either no stretching or dynamic stretching alone.
- Among the less-experienced players, dynamic stretching resulted in about 3% faster course times than no stretching.
- Among the more experienced players, there was no difference between the course times after dynamic stretching and no stretching.
The evidence indicates that dynamic stretching is superior to static stretching for the kind of agility needed for most team sports. This is probably due to a reduction after static stretching in the spring-like stiffness of muscle. The results support those of other studies that have shown a detrimental effect of static stretching on strength, jumping ability and sprint speed. It is not clear why the experienced players in this study showed no advantage of dynamic stretching over no stretching at all. However, since these were professional soccer players, it seems safe to conclude that the effects on amateur athletes would parallel those on the less experienced professional players. Thus, their performance would likely be enhanced by dynamic stretching.