Research Review By Kevin Neeld©

Date Posted:

September 2009

Study Title:

Acute Effects of Passive Static Stretching During Warm-Up on Drive Clubhead Speed, Distance, Accuracy, and Consistent Ball Contact in Young Male Competitive Golfers

Authors:

Gergley JC

Author's Affiliations:

Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, Stephen F. Austin State University

Publication Information:

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2009; 23(3): 863-867.

Background Information:

Within the last decade, a large body of literary evidence has emerged suggesting that static stretching immediately before activity decreases performance and may actually increase injury risk. This is in sharp contrast to the predominant thought leading up to this time that static stretching was an essential part of a performance enhancement and injury-reduction pre-training routine.

The results of these studies caused an over-reaction in the fitness field, causing many professionals to no longer recommend static stretching at all. It is important to consider the results of the aforementioned studies within the appropriate context. Specifically, many of these studies tested the outcome measures immediately after the static stretches were performed. This is rarely how static stretching is used in athletics or with training clients. Typically a static stretching routine is performed prior to an active dynamic warm-up or at least several minutes before beginning any activity.

Because research is now emerging that the majority of deleterious performance effects of static stretching resolve within a time period of around 20 minutes, recommending that static stretching not be performed is inappropriate. Furthermore, it is reasonable to suppose that the neural inhibition resulting from static stretching would be reduced/counteracted by the neural excitation elicited from an active dynamic warm-up.

Despite these speculations, little is known about how following a static stretching routine with a dynamic warm-up will affect performance. Furthermore, there is a lack of data on the effect of warm-ups on golf performance, a rapidly growing segment of the training population.

The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of an active dynamic (AD) warm-up alone and static stretching and active dynamic (SS) warm-up on various measures of golf driving performance.

Pertinent Results:

  • Clubhead speed was significantly slower following the SS (static stretching) warm-up (46.43 m/s) compared to the AD (active dynamic) warm-up (48.15 m/s).
  • Shot distance was significantly lower following the SS warm-up (231.86 m) compared to the AD warm-up (245.69 m).
  • Shot accuracy was significantly worse following the SS warm-up (5.91 m) compared to the AD warm-up (4.51 m).
  • Lastly, subjective feelings of consistent solid contact (# of yes responses) were significantly lower following the SS warm-up (6.86) compared to the AD warm-up (8.20).

Clinical Application & Conclusions:

The findings of this study add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that static stretching negatively influences subsequent performance. While these results are golf-specific, similar findings have been reported for strength, speed, and jump height.

A seemingly logical conclusion from these results may be that static stretching should not be performed. This is a potentially dangerous conclusion, however, as anecdotal evidence from physical therapists suggests that most individuals aren’t stretching nearly enough.

A more appropriate application of these results is that static stretching should be performed well in advance of the commencement of activity. Indeed there is evidence that the stretching-induced decrements in neural drive and musculotendinous stiffness return to baseline levels after around 20 minutes.

A more conservative approach may be to stretch at least an hour prior to activity, as there is some evidence of stretch-induced strength decrements lasting up to this amount of time.

Interestingly, performance measures were still impaired despite performing the AD warm-up immediately after the SS warm-up. Many fitness professionals have their athletes/clients perform static stretches immediately before an active dynamic warm-up, which precedes the training session or competition. The idea is that the active dynamic warm-up will negate/reverse any negative stretch-induced performance side effects.

The results of this study suggest that, if practical, it may be best for clients/athletes to perform their static stretches at a time further removed from their training sessions.

Study Methods:

Fifteen young male competitive golfers (Average Age: 20.6 years; Height: 182.5 cm; Body Mass: 79.9 kg; USGA Handicap: 2.5) participated in the current investigation. All participants performed two warm-up procedures, an active dynamic warm-up (AD), or a static stretching and active dynamic warm-up (SS). The AD warm-up consisted of taking 10 practice swings with a 1.13 kg weighted club, then four sets of three full-swing shots with increasingly lighter clubs, leading up to a final set of three full-swing shots with a driver. The SS warm-up involved holding the following passive stretches for three sets of 10s on each side: Neck stretch, chest stretch, posterior shoulder, inferior shoulder, side bend, quadriceps stretch, back extensor stretch, prone back stretch, reverse trunk twist, trunk twist, hamstring stretch, calf stretch. Following this stretching protocol, the AD warm-up was performed as described above.

After each warm-up, participants hit 10 full-swing golf shots, with one minute of rest between shots. The outcome measures were: club head speed, shot distance, shot accuracy, and consistent ball contact (measured subjectively).

Study Strengths / Weaknesses:

The study was well conducted, with only one notable limitation. The study lacked a no warm-up control group. While it is unlikely that golfers would jump right into full swings without some sort of warm-up, the inclusion of a no warm-up control group allows the quantification of performance improvements/decrements resulting from either the AD or SS warm-ups.

It will be interesting to see if these results are repeatable with different age levels, skill levels, and different aspects of golf performance (e.g. putting accuracy).

Additional References:

  1. (1) Behm DG et al. Factors affecting force loss with prolonged stretching. Can J Appl Physiol 2001; 26: 261-272.
  2. (2) Cornwell A et al. Acute effects of passive muscle stretching on vertical jump performance. J Hum Mov Stud 2001; 40: 307-324.
  3. (3) Doan BK et al. Effects of physical conditioning on intercollegiate golfer performance. J Strength Cond Res 2006; 20: 62-72.
  4. (4) Hetu FE et al. Effects of conditioning on physical fitness and club head speed in mature golfers. Percept Mot Skills 1998; 86: 811-815.
  5. (5) Young W, & Elliott S. Acute effects of static stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, and maximum voluntary contractions on explosive force production and jumping performance. Res Q Exerc Sport 2001; 72: 273-279.