Written By Dave
Static stretching has for a long time been a staple part of volleyball warm ups. Walk into a lot gyms and you will see teams sitting in circle for several minutes performing static stretching, before they launch into their training or game. Research shows that this might not be the best way to prepare….
What is static stretching?
Static stretching is basically when you move into a position of mild discomfort and hold that position for a period of time (typically 10s-30s). This is a type of stretching you see regularly, and I’m sure anyone who has played volleyball has done. An example is a seated hamstring stretch, where you have one leg out straight and the other tucked up, and you lean forward to the point of mild discomfort or stretch, and hold this position.
Seated hamstring stretch (Pic: jsmjr)
How does it affect your muscles?
Static stretching elongates muscles and reduces tension within them. As the stretch is held for a period of time, stretch receptors in the muscle become used to this new length and a consequence the neural signals to the muscle drop off. So basically your muscle gets a bit longer and relaxes.
Effect on power and vertical jump
Decreased neural output or relaxed muscles are not what you want when you are trying to produce power and jump. Many studies have found that a static stretching warm up has a detrimental effect on vertical jump and power outputs. The static stretching prior to jumping decreases the neural signals to the muscles telling it to contract. When you’re jumping you want the nervous system to be switched on, with strong messages going to the muscle enhancing the efficiency between nervous system and muscular system and hence improving power output.
A great way to switch on the nervous system is by doing an active warm up. Keep your eyes open for a later post on this.
When should you do it
The research tells us that static stretching should not be done immediately before any activity whose performance depends largely upon achieving high amounts of force. This means don’t do it before jumping, as it impedes performance.
However, after training static stretching is great. After training you want to achieve muscle relaxation and elongation, to help return muscles that have just been thrashed in training back to their original length and tension. This promotes recovery.
Static stretching in the warm up is not all bad. The dulling of the nervous system does not last forever, and can be reversed if some mobility and active warm up activities are carried out following the static stretching. This will fire up the nervous system again preparing the body for max force production and jumping.
So, you can include static stretching in a warm up, but it is best to do it at the start, and follow it with an active warm up. The key point is not to do it immediately before jumping as it dulls the nervous system impairing performance.