WARM-UP AND STRETCHING: MODIFYING YOUR APPROACH
Although most research supports the use of stretching exercises before a workout or game, there is conflicting evidence and a difference of opinion and practice in several key areas such as what technique to use, when to stretch, what to emphasize when you stretch, and how long to stretch. In some cases, different techniques appear to be equally effective. In others, there is a need to consider a slightly different approach.
Beginning of a Workout or Practice Session
The first stretching session occurs immediately after a 12-15 minute general warm-up period that raises core temperature 1-2 degrees and produces perspiration. Obviously, It is important to avoid stretching cold muscles. The purpose of this session is to prepare athletes for a high intensity workout or game and reduce the chance of soft tissue injury. This is not the time to concentrate on improving range of motion.
Dynamic Stretching. One of the conclusions drawn by researchers in a three year old study performed by the Kapooka Health Centre, New South Wales, Australia on 1,538 army recruits was that static stretching, the most common type used in the beginning of a workout, may harm muscles, ligaments and joints and decrease performance. Evidence also indicated that the force output potential of stretched muscles was reduced by 8-15% for as long as one hour. This reduction in muscle strength may also increase the likelihood of injury. Although the findings of one study do not merit a complete change of tactics, this is not the first time static techniques have been questioned. The NASE combines Dynamic Stretching and sprinting form training in the beginning of a workout, immediately following the general warm-up session. Exercises progress from slow movements to medium to near maximum speed in 2-3 sets of ten repetitions. Drills are taught by a track coach the first week until athletes can perform each correctly. Try this 15 minute combination dynamic stretching/form training routine at your next workout:
1. Jog-stride-sprint in place – Using proper arm movement, jog in place slowly for ten repetitions (left foot contacts the ground ten times) bringing the knees waist high.
2. Sprint-arm-movement – Standing erect with only a slight forward lean, arms and hands in a relaxed sprinting position, move the arms through one complete sprinting cycle at medium speed (forward hand rises to shoulder height, backward hand to the hip); repeat ten times.
3. Butt Kickers -From a slow jog, the lower leg swings back and bounces off the buttocks; the upper leg stays vertical as you slowly move forward for ten yards.
4. Shoulder Twirl – Swing both arms slowly in a clockwise circular motion in front of your body with the hands moving below the waist 10 times; repeat with a counterclockwise circular motion above the shoulders 10 times.
Repeat #1 (jogging in place) at 3/4 speed.
Repeat #3 (butt kickers) at 1/2 speed
Repeat #2 (sprint-arm-movement) at 3/4 speed
Repeat #4 (shoulder twirls) at 1/2 speed.
5. Cycling –Lean against a wall or bar; cycle one leg through a sprinting action. Keep the leg from extending behind the body, allow foot to kick the buttocks during recovery, and paw the ground to complete one repetition. Complete ten repetitions with each leg.
6. Pull-throughs–Extend your leg in front of your body like a hurdler, bring your leg down and paw at the ground in a power motion; ten repetitions
7. Down-and-Offs–Jog in place using high knees, hit the ground with the balls of the foot and push off as quickly as possible; bouncing up into the high knee position; ten repetitions.
8. African Dance–Run forward, raise each leg to the side of your body as in hurdling and tap the heel with your hand; ten repetitions.
Repeat #5 (Cycling) at 3/4 speed
Repeat #6 (Pull-throughs) at 3/4 speed
Repeat #7 (Down-and-offs) at 3/4 speed
Repeat #2 (sprint-arm exercise) at maximum speed – 2 sets of ten repetitions
Repeat #8 (African dance) at 3/4 speed
Repeat #1 (Sprinting in place) at 3/4 to maximum speed – 2 sets of ten repetitions
The End or Cool Down Phase – Static Stretching.
The static stretching technique is safe and effective to use at the end of a workout to increase range of motion. Concentrate on two phases: easy stretching for one repetition, moving slowly into the stretch and applying mild tension with a steady, light pressure, and 1-2 repetitions of developmental stretching by increasing the intensity for an inch or less. Exercises should involve a slow, relaxed, controlled, and pain-free movement. Forget the “no pain, no gain” mentality and learn to judge each exercise by the “stretch and feel method,” easing off the push if pain is too intense. You must remain in the hold position at the end of the stretch for 30 seconds for the stretch to progress from the middle of the muscle belly to the tendon. The “ideal” length of the hold is closer to 60 seconds. Begin with a 30- second hold and add 3-4 seconds each workout until you can comfortably maintain the position in each exercise for 60 seconds after 3 weeks. Exercises should involve the major joints: neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, wrists, and ankles, be as specific to the sport as possible, and strive for equal range of motion on both sides of the body. Research suggests that a joint that is 15% more flexible than the corresponding joint is 2 1/2 times more likely to be injured.
Flexibility training (stretching) is an important part of a workout or pre-game routine. Dynamic stretching exercises are completed in the beginning of each workout immediately after a general warm-up to prepare for vigorous activity and prevent injury. The second session involves the use of static stretching exercises as part of the cool-down activity at the end of the workout and is designed to improve an athlete’s range of motion. The combination of the two methods effectively and safely meets the objectives of a good stretching program