Stretching and Warm Up Guidlines
Every team has a structured practice routine that includes some kind of warm up activity. The importance of this part of your practice cannot be overstated; a good stretch cannot be achieved without proper warm up. Connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and skin) are all elastic, but when they are cold, connective tissues will not have their full elasticity. A proper warm up will raise the body temperature of the athlete and increase blood flow to all connective tissue, thus increasing its elastic properties.
Once the warm up is completed, the athlete should begin with some fluid or dynamic type of stretching (to be discussed later) . Pre-practice or pre-competition stretching may include any movement that simulates the sport acitivity. The ROM of each joint should be reached safely and under control. The athlete should not bounce or jerk his/her body (ballistic) . Rather, all movements should be performed fluidly and under control. Knees should never be locked or totally straight, and the back should be kept as straight as possible for all positions. The athlete should strive for the limit of their comfort on all movements, holding each position for 10 seconds without pain. With continued and consistent effort to the limit of comfort in all stretches, the athlete's ROM will increase.
Types of Stretching
Static: slow, constant stretch held for up to 30 secs. Excellent for improving overall ROM, especially when performed post-event. Some danger exists for "forced stretch" and if improper warm up, therefore caution should be exercised if used as primary pre-event stretch.
Ballistic: rapid and bouncy stretch, no hold. High risk for injury to connective tissue, and ultimately poor results due to stretch reflex discussed earlier.
Dynamic: includes sports specific movements; similar to a "specific warm up" in that it utilizes patterns of movements specific to the sport. Recommended mode of pre-event stretching for 2 reasons: it builds sport specific mobility and it allows for player activity (vs. passive, static positions)
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): - mostly performed with partner, requires athlete to alternately contract and relax the muscle being stretched. Requires some expertise and more time for instruction and execution. Excellent for the rehabiliting athlete.
Summary: dynamic stretch for pre-event recommended
static stretch for post-event recommended
ballistic stretch to be avoided
PNF for injury rehab or really comitted with lots of time.