Stretching for Sport Performance
Author: Sharice Mai
Flexibility is a component of fitness that often gets overlooked by coaches and athletes. However, it’s got an important role to play in our warm ups, repetitions and cool downs. Here’s a breakdown on the best stretches to do as part of the routine.
Warm up phase: Dynamic stretching
Aim: prevent injury during activity
The current research supports dynamic stretching as part of the warm up. These stretches should replicate movements done during the sport/performance about to be done. For example, shoulder rolls/arm circles to precede throwing sports. With dynamic stretching, we are moving through the range continuously rather than holding a stretch still.
Cool down phase: Static stretching
Aim: relax muscles after activity, increase flexibility
Science shows that static stretching before activities can reduce performance levels. In this type of stretch, you hold your body into an end of range position and remain still. It is therefore more beneficial to do these stretches after play, also taking advantage of the muscles while they are warm. An example would be the supine spinal twist.
Cool down phase: PNF stretching
Aim: increase flexibility
PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching happens when you get to the end range of motion and activate that muscle being stretched before relaxing again. Here’s an example: Get into a low lunge and straighten out the front knee, then fold your body forwards to get a nice hamstring stretch. For 10 seconds, push your front heel into the ground (activating your hamstring muscle to do so), then relax and aim your body forwards more. You should feel a slight increase in range. It is safest to do these while the muscles are still warm, so it is best to save for the cool down phase just after play.
Remember, your motion is just as important as your strength. So stay strong and stay flexible!