The topic of static stretching is a prime example of why I wrote Beyond Tape. I was starting to see more blog posts stating things like “there is absolutely no research that shows static stretching can help to prevent injuries”. From time to time, we all regurgitate information that we believe to be true (whether it be related to health, politics, education, etc.) but do not always have clear examples of why we believe what we believe aside from hearing it from a source we trust (professor, coach, politician, news source, etc.). I wondered, “Am I doing that?” and “Do these people know something I don’t?” I went back through the research to organize the solid studies showing that a statistically significant decrease in musculotendinous injuries (sprains and strains) occurs when static stretching is used.1,2,3,4,5 There are also research results that call into question the benefits of static stretching for injury prevention.6,7,8 However, these conflicts are resolved in almost all cases when looking at the types of injuries and types of activities that are studied. For example, stretching will most likely not prevent injuries such as dislocations or fractures that occur due to a traumatic event. Another important point is that the research showing benefits of static stretching has been done with activities that require explosive movements or the athlete using the end ranges of movements, such as soccer. In contrast, I think it is reasonable to argue that static stretching may not be beneficial for injury prevention for activities such as long distance running where end ranges and explosive movements are not typically used. The bottom line is that static stretching is recommended for musculotendinous injury (strains and sprains) prevention with climbing due to the facts that these types of injuries are highly prevalent in the climbing population and that climbers are frequently testing end ranges of motion, especially in their shoulders and hips, as well as performing explosive movements especially with bouldering and sport climbing.
What is static stretching, how should I do it, and what stretches are best for climbers?
Static stretching occurs when a muscle is held at its end range for a prolonged period of time. Research shows that a minimum of 30 seconds is best for muscle lengthening1,9,10,11 and holding for 1.5-3 minutes or more can additionally help release any myofascial restrictions that may be present.12,13,14,15
Check out my rock climbing warm up article for the reasons why static stretching is best used after climbing and on rest days, as opposed to before climbing.
The following are examples of important stretches for climbing specifically due to either the repetitiveness of some motions (finger/wrist flexors), the explosive nature of movements that use certain muscle groups (finger/wrist flexors, latissimus dorsi, hip extensors), and/or the likelihood of reaching into the end ranges of certain body parts on a regular basis (shoulder and hip joints).
- Wrist/finger flexors – used to grip the rock with all types of holds
2. Wrist/finger extensors – used to stabilize the wrist and oppose the wrist flexors
3. Pectorals – pectoralis minor contributes to rolling the shoulders forward in the typical “climber’s back” posture
4. Latissimus Dorsi – used extensively in the pulling motions of climbing and also contributes to rolling the shoulders forward in the typical “climber’s back” posture
5. High step (hip adductors, extensors, internal rotators) – lack of flexibility can limit climbing ability and cause significant strain on the muscles in their most lengthened position
6. Spinal twists with shoulder horizontal adduction – lack of spinal flexibility contributes to excessive motion at the shoulder and hip joints; this pose also stretches the muscles of the posterior shoulder which is used extensively in pulling
Check out Beyond Tape: The Guide to Climbing Injury Prevention and Treatment for more information about warming up, stretching, and other climbing injury related topics. Subscribe here to get the latest posts and like my facebook page for updates and more information. My primary motivations for Beyond Tape and any of the posts are to: 1. Check out the most relevant and up-to-date research for each topic in order to dispel myths, sift out conflicting views, and help people to prevent or heal from injuries – letting me know about new research or opposing views is helpful and greatly appreciated 2. Contribute to the local and global communities by donating 100% of my net profits from Beyond Tape to service-based non-profit organizations, such as Rotary International, Doctor’s Without Borders, Access Fund, etc.
1 Woods K, Bishop K, Jones E. Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury. Sports Med 2007; 37 (12): 1089-1099.
2 Hartig DE1, Henderson JM. Increasing hamstring flexibility decreases lower extremity overuse injuries in military basic trainees. Am J Sports Med. 1999 Mar-Apr;27(2):173-6.
3 Cross KM1, Worrell TW. Effects of a static stretching program on the incidence of lower extremity musculotendinous strains. J Athl Train. 1999 Jan;34(1):11-4.
4 McHugh MP1, Cosgrave CH. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.
5 Amako M1, Oda T, Masuoka K, Yokoi H, Campisi P. Effect of static stretching on prevention of injuries for military recruits. Mil Med. 2003 Jun;168(6):442-6.
6 Pope RP1, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Feb;32(2):271-7.
7 Arnason A1, Andersen TE, Holme I, Engebretsen L, Bahr R. Prevention of hamstring strains in elite soccer: an intervention study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008 Feb;18(1):40-8.
8 Thacker SB1, Gilchrist J, Stroup DF, Kimsey CD Jr. The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Mar;36(3):371-8.
9 de Weijer VC1, Gorniak GC, Shamus E. The effect of static stretch and warm-up exercise on hamstring length over the course of 24 hours. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003 Dec;33(12):727-33.
10 Davis DS1, Ashby PE, McCale KL, McQuain JA, Wine JM. The effectiveness of 3 stretching techniques on hamstring flexibility using consistent stretching parameters. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Feb;19(1):27-32.
11 Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M. The effect of static stretch and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1998 Apr;27(4):295-300.
12 Ajimsha MS1, Binsu D2, Chithra S2. Effectiveness of myofascial release in the management of plantar heel pain: A randomized controlled trial. Foot (Edinb). 2014 Jun;24(2):66-71.
13 Barnes JF. Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence. Paoli, PA: Rehabilitation Services, Inc., 1990. Print.
14 Standley P. In Vitro Mechanical Strain Modeling of Myofascial Release. Date: 11/3/2011. http://www.osteopathic.org/inside-aoa/events/annual-aoa-research-conference/2011-research-conference/Documents/10-30-2011/1—10-30-2011–BiomechanicalRegulation-of-Cell-Function—-Standley.pdf (presented at the 2011 Research Conference of the AOA).
15 Cao TV1, Hicks MR1, Zein-Hammoud M1, Standley PR2. Duration and magnitude of myofascial release in 3-dimensional bioengineered tendons: effects on wound healing. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2015 Feb;115(2):72-82.