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Toronto, ON M5H 3B7
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To Stretch or not to Stretch…

June 15, 2023 by Rebalance Toronto

Stretching - Downtown Toronto Rehab PilatesTo stretch or not to stretch… this is a question pondered by a lot of our patients, particularly the runners that come into Rebalance looking for advice as they prepare for their spring races. Google will likely give you conflicting advice regarding stretching, should it be done before activity? after? never?

Most patients that come into Rebalance wonder whether stretching should be included in their pre-activity warm up. We all know that a good warm up prior to any physical exercise is important. It has been shown to improve athletic performance and reduce injury1. However, whether static stretching should be included in this warm up has been, and continues to be debated.

Research indicates that the components of a good warm up include1,4,5:

  1. Low intensity aerobic activity (walking, light jogging or gentle plyometrics)

    The aerobic activity increases body temperature which in turn has been shown to improve compliance of muscles, increase metabolic activity (energy production) and improves the connection between the nerves and muscles1,2.

  2. Sport specific dynamic activities

    This includes movements typically performed throughout a patient’s sport or activity. It is believed that this helps to improve neural conductivity and promote proper muscle patterns specific to movements needed throughout the activity.

  3. Stretching

    Typically some form of stretch is involved in a quality warm, however the kind of stretch varies. Stretching is typically broken down into two varieties.

    Static stretching

    When a muscles is taken to its end range and a stretch is maintained for 60 – 90 seconds1,2.

    Dynamic stretching

    Includes moving a joint through a controlled range of motion to briefly stretch muscle around the joint for short periods of time3

Despite stretching being included as part of a “good warm up”, a review of the research found that static stretching of 90 seconds or more was linked to significant deficits in sport performance. Decreases in muscle power, speed, agility and jump and sprint capacity were all cited and these side effects can lasted up to two hours after static stretching 4. This research review also noted that static stretching at durations of 30 seconds or less may or may not affect performance4. However, static stretching does improve length and flexibility of muscles which may be needed in specific sports such as gymnastics and hockey4.

Dynamic stretching, however, has been shown to improve athletic performance or at the very least have no significant effect on performance4. The dynamic stretch acts similarly to the low intensity aerobic activity, increasing body temperature, stimulating the nervous system and improving muscle activation4. Simultaneously it has been shown to provide small gains in muscle length and flexibility5.

We advise our patients that both forms of stretching can be advantageous when used at the right time. Prior to athletic performance or activity, dynamic stretching may be more beneficial. Static stretching may be considered when competition, sports participation or high performance tasks are not following the stretch session. Static stretching may be used to improve range of motion and length of tight muscles to reduce injury.

If you have questions about what stretches would be right for you, book in with one of our therapists and let them help you optimize your pre-game warm up!


  1. Young W, Behm D (2002) Should static stretching be used during a warm-up for strength and power activities? Strength Cond J 24:33–37
  2. Bishop D (2003) Warm up I: potential mechanisms and the effects of passive warm up on exercise performance. Sports Med 33:439–454
  3. Fletcher IM (2010) The effect of different dynamic stretch velocities on jump performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 109:491–498
  4. Behm, D.G. & Chaouachi, A. A review of the ace effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol (2011) 111: 2633. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2
  5. Kallerud, H. & Gleeson, N. Effects of stretching on serformances involving stretch shortening cycles. Sports Med (2013) 43: 733. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0053-x

Rebalance Toronto

Rebalance Sports Medicine is a multidisciplinary clinic in downtown Toronto offering physiotherapy, chiropractic, registered massage therapy, sports medicine, naturopathy, Pilates and more.

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Yonge & AdelaideRebalance Clinic Yonge Adelaide
110 Yonge Street Suite 905
Toronto, ON M5C 1T4
T: (416) 777-9999
E: [email protected]
University & KingRebalance Clinic University King
155 University Avenue Suite 303
Toronto, ON M5H 3B7
T: (416) 306-1111
E: [email protected]

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