Should you stretch before you max out?

Maximal strength, number of repetitions, and total volume are differently affected by static-, ballistic-, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching.

Most strength and conditioning professionals agree that proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching would not be a wise choice for warming up before a lifting or practice session. Although proven to acutely increase range of motion (ROM), PNF stretching has also been shown to significantly reduce musculotendionus stiffness and decreased motor unit activation. In other words, athletes are able to generate less force after PNF stretching.

However, a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the difference in not only PNF stretching but also static stretching (SS) and ballistic stretching (BS) in maximal strength output, number of repetitions and total volume. The findings show that the varying stretching techniques affect strength output differently.

The study took 12 strength trained men through 8 testing days, each spaced 72 hours apart, to determine how the different stretching techniques affected either their maximal strength, or strength endurance in the leg press.

Their experimental design:

The study supported that all forms of stretching acutely increased ROM with PNF increasing ROM the most. More importantly, not only PNF and SS decreased the number of repetitions and total volume lifted, but so did BS. In addition, the findings show that only PNF stretching significantly decreased maximal strength test results.

Despite previous evidence that shows BS does not affect max strength and may improve sprinting and jumping performance, this study was the first to investigate the acute effect of BS on the number of repetitions performed. The finding showed a significant reduction in the number of repetitions performed in the leg-press exercise at 80% of the subjects 1RM.

Readers, your dynamic warm up is essential because it elevates your heart rate and core body temperature, improves your flexibility and mobility as an athlete which will help keep you healthy, and it allows you time to get mentally focused for the days session. However, if you are going for a 1RM or a test till failure, say a max repetition bench press of 225 like at the NFL combine, it may be better to skip the stretching. Instead, perform a few warm up sets of that same exercise to warm up your nervous system while keeping the stiffness in your muscles that will help you set a new PR (personal record).

References:

Barroso,R; Tricoli, V; Santos, G; Ugrinowitsch, C; Roschel, H. Maximal Strength, number of repetitions, and total volume are differently affected by static-, ballistic-, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012 Sept;26(9):2432-7

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Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell - CEO and Co-Founder Through my passion to forge myself into the best athlete possible, I developed a love for performance training. I learned and experienced that with the right training and the right coach, any athlete can change their body and maximize their performance. The passion I experienced as an athlete trying to find the best training regimen to achieve all my goals was the foundation for starting Peerless Athletics. I began a journey to find the “Holy Grail” of training by learning from great coaches and combining the best parts of each system into one complete training system: Peerless Athletics. I have personally been trained by the best performance coaches in the country including: - Mike Boyle (Director of S&C for the Boston Red Sox) - Dennis Logan (Head of NFL Combine Prep Program at EXOS) - Keenan Robinson (North Baltimore Swim Club and Michael Phelps’ SC) - Rob Oshinskie (Owner/Founder of Victory Sports and Performance) - Joel Saunders (Director of Adult Performance Training at EXOS) - Dennis Keiser (Owner/Founder of Keiser pneumantics) - Rob Taylor (Owner of Smarter Team Training) - Mike Gittleson (Fmr. U. of Michigan S&C Coach) - Augie Maurelli (Fmr. U. of Delaware S&C Coach) - Scott Moody (Owner/Founder of AthleteFIT) - Kevin Boyle (Director for Explosive Performance) - Chris Gorres (Regional Director for Explosive Performance) Athletic Accomplishments: As a walk-on at the University of Delaware, I beat the odds by earning a starting position and a full athletic scholarship. I played fullback/h-back and linebacker for the Blue Hens from 2009-2011. In 2010 we won our conference, the CAA, and went to the D-1 FCS Championship Game. After college, I used the Peerless Athletics Training System to improve my combine stats dramatically. I was invited to the NFL Super Regional Combine to workout in front of all 32 NFL teams. I would have never got to that stage without Peerless Athletics Training Systems which is why I am now dedicated to providing every person I work with the opportunity to use our system and become the best version of themselves.